Marjory Burns: Tell family you want to be donor

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Every day, lives are unnecessarily lost because people who are willing to donate organs after their death simply haven’t got around to telling their nearest and dearest, leaving relatives to make a decision not knowing their loved one was willing to be a donor.

Around nine out of ten Scots support organ donation but fewer than half of Scotland’s population have registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

BHF Scotland wants to see a change to the system which could dramatically increase the number of donor organs available and help to save lives. We’ve been lobbying our politicians for some time and I believe that we now have a real chance to make this change happen.

We’re supporting MSP Anne McTaggart’s proposed Member’s Bill that would change our system to one of soft opt-out. This would mean that, unless a person expressly states that they do not want to donate their organs in the event of their death, or their family was aware of any objection, the default position would be to donate.

Anne’s proposed Organ and Tissue Donation (Scotland) Bill is currently out for its 12-week consultation, after which she’ll present the findings to the Scottish Parliament in the hope of having the Bill progress through the legislative process.

We’ve been working with Anne to take our message, about the need to save more lives, to people at our Furniture & Electrical stores throughout Scotland, including in Leith this 
Friday past.

Some people have voiced concern that a soft opt-out system would deny them choices, but that’s not the case at all. Individuals would still have the choice whether to donate or not and to have their wishes recorded.

Making organ donation normal would encourage more people to speak to those closest to them about their wishes.

For people needing a heart transplant the need for more donor organs is really pressing because better treatment and care mean more people are surviving heart attacks.

This is great news, but sadly, as a result, many survivors are living with heart failure, a debilitating condition that means the heart can’t pump blood effectively.

Some heart failure patients tell us it feels like they’re drowning because their lungs fill up with fluid and they just can’t get a breath. Imagine how frightening that must feel.

Please have a chat with your family about your thoughts and wishes over organ donation. This is a conversation that could save not just one life but several, because by becoming a donor you could save the lives of up to nine people.

To find out more about Anne McTaggart’s Bill visit her website at or drop me an email at

• Marjory Burns is director of the British Heart Foundation Scotland