Organ donation: Holyrood committee rules against opt-out plan

HOPES that Scotland could move to an opt-out system for organ donations received a setback today when a Holyrood committee came out against a change in the law.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 29th January 2016, 12:25 pm
Updated Friday, 29th January 2016, 12:49 pm
A move to an opt-out system is now less likely. File picture: Bob McDougall
A move to an opt-out system is now less likely. File picture: Bob McDougall

A majority of the Scottish Parliament’s health committee said a Bill proposed by Labour backbencher Anne McTaggart – which would allow the removal of organs unless the person objected during their lifetime – should not proceed to the next stage.

They said they were not persuaded that changing to an opt-out system would increase organ donation rates.

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But they recommended the Scottish Government should begin its own consultation on such a system as a priority in the next parliament.

Under the proposed Bill, families would still be consulted after the death of a loved one.

Committee convener Duncan McNeil said they had heard evidence of the transformative effect of organ donation on patients who received them.

He said: “While the committee supported the aim behind the legislation, a majority couldn’t support the detail.”

“A majority had concerns over the practical implications of the proposed Bill and therefore want to see the Scottish Government prepare a consultation in order to identify further ways that we can increase organ donation in Scotland.”

The committee’s report said a delay would also allow Scotland to learn from the experiences of Wales, where an opt-out system came into force last month.

Scottish Labour leader and Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale was among those who had spoken in favour of the Bill, urging the Scottish Government to “offer real hope to Scots waiting on transplant lists”. Dr Sue Robertson, a kidney doctor and a member of the BMA’s Scottish council, said: “It is disappointing that the majority of the health committee do not feel they can support the Bill at this time.

“With over 570 people in Scotland waiting for transplants, the BMA believes that a soft opt-out system, as part of the overall package to increase donation, would save more lives.

“As a doctor who looks after patients both waiting for and having received organs I see the difference that a transplant makes to my patients’ lives.

“Organ donation is a ‘gift’ which has the potential to transform the lives of others, which is why I feel so passionately that we need to act now to do all we can to increase the number of organs available for transplantation.

“If properly implemented, with adequate resources and staff, and backed up by a high profile publicity campaign, an opt-out system could save or transform peoples’ lives. All the time we waste now means that more lives will be lost.”