LOTHIAN looks set to become the first place in Scotland with half of residents signed up to the organ donor register.
New figures have revealed that the region boasts the highest rate of organ donors in the country, with almost 46 per cent – or 382,938 people – prepared to give up body parts in the event of their death.
News of the 8.7 per cent rise in new registrations to the register last year came as it emerged that a permanent memorial to organ donors is to be built in the Capital.
Families of organ donors are currently offered the chance to add an engraved leaf to The Loveseat memorial at the Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow, but with it filling up rapidly, the Evening News can reveal that the Scottish Government is to work with the NHS Lothian Organ Donation Committee to create and fund a new memorial in Edinburgh.
Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: “The Scottish Government is working with organ donor family representatives and transplant recipients to create a national organ donation memorial in Edinburgh. This will be in addition to the existing national memorial, The Loveseat.”
A working group has been set up, including patient representatives and Anne Mulligan, chaplain at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and the proposal has received the backing of the NHS Lothian board.
The location and type of memorial has not been decided, but it is likely that an area of the ERI, which is home to the Scottish Liver Transplant Unit and also a centre for kidney, pancreas and bone marrow transplants, will be considered as a possible site.
This year, Lothian medical teams performed their 1000th kidney and liver transplant. In 2011-12, 26 patients received transplants from living donors and another 83 received transplants from 28 donors after brain or circulatory death at the hospital.
Efforts to get more people in the region to sign up are ongoing following a series of successful NHS Lothian campaigns, with new patients at GPs now asked whether they want to join the register when they sign up.
Future campaigns may focus on underrepresented groups on the organ donor register, such as ethnic minorities and men.
Labour MSP Drew Smith said he plans to bring forward legislation to introduce a presumed consent model for organ donation, which would mean the organ donor registers would operate under an opt-out system, rather than the current opt-in.
He backed the idea of a new memorial in Lothian, describing organ and tissue donors as “lifesavers” and adding that “it is right that their gift of life is both celebrated and commemorated”.
He said: “Scotland needs more donors but in asking for that it is only right that we thank those who do carry a card.
“A new memorial would provide a focal point for those families who do give consent to their loved ones’ organs being donated.”
My transplant has given me my life back
ALAN Stewart knows all about the life-changing difference an organ transplant can make.
A degenerative kidney condition left him needing dialysis and so drained that he struggled to get through a working day.
But after his sister, Kathleen McHenry, agreed to offer one of her kidneys as a live transplant, he was “given his life back”.
Father-of-two Alan, from Peebles, was operated on at the ERI in 2009 and has since taken part in a round-the-world yacht race.
The 49-year-old teacher, left, said: “We have still got to get more people on the organ donor register. I was lucky, but people are dying while they are waiting for transplants.
“People who become donors are giving someone else a life. If people knew the difference it made they would be signing up in even greater numbers.
“I think a memorial is a tremendous idea. I was at the Transplant Games and no-one could be held in higher esteem than the folk who have donated organs.”