Kezia Dugdale calls for organ donation change

Kezia Dugdalen. Picture: Greg Macvean
Kezia Dugdalen. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has urged the Scottish Government to back proposals to change the organ donation system following a visit to a British Heart Foundation research centre.

MSPs will shortly debate legislation which proposes a move from a system in which people have to actively join the NHS Organ Donation Register to a “soft” opt-out approach in an effort to tackle a shortage of organs.

The private member’s Bill from Labour Glasgow MSP Anne McTaggart would permit the removal of organs unless the person objected during their lifetime.

Families would also be consulted on the death of a loved one to establish any objection that had not been registered.

Speaking at a visit to the British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science at Edinburgh University, Lothian MSP Ms Dugdale said: “All it would take is a simple change of heart from the SNP government and we could save lives across Scotland.

“Evidence suggests that a move to a soft opt-out system could increase donation rates by up to 30 per cent.

“Rather than leading the UK, Scotland is now trailing other countries like Wales, where this system has already been introduced.

“The Scottish Parliament has taken bold and radical action on health policy before, like the smoking ban.

“We should do so again and grasp the opportunity to deliver real change and offer real hope to Scots waiting on transplant lists.”

A soft opt-out system was introduced in Wales in December.

Health Minister Maureen Watt has said the government would consider an organ donation opt-out if the Welsh system proved successful.

She told Holyrood’s health committee last month that while she is not opposed to an opt-out system “in principle”, there are “significant concerns” over the legislation.

Edinburgh has the highest support for organ donation in the whole of the UK, a national survey last year found.

A total of 56 per cent of people in the Capital said they had joined the Organ Donor Register – ahead of closest rivals Plymouth and Belfast on 45 per cent.

According to the survey, Scotland has the highest percentage of people of all the UK regions who say they have registered to be an organ donor.

The Labour call has previously won backing from Scottish television presenter Lorraine Kelly. She said: “I’ve encouraged people to speak to their families about organ donation and I’m glad that I’ve had that discussion with my own loved ones. I hope that the introduction of a ‘soft opt-out’ system will encourage more people to make the decisions about donation during their lifetime and have this important conversation with family and friends.

“Being an organ donor is a unique opportunity for people to leave behind an amazing gift.”