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Soft-Opt Out Organ Donation Bill Passes Stage 1 in Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament

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“How do we raise the level of organ donations in Scotland to match the needs of those desperately awaiting transplantation?David Stewart MSP


The Scottish Parliament debated a ‘soft opt-out’ system for organ donation on Tuesday 26th of February. The  Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill was at stage 1.

Local MSP David Stewart, who is Labour’s Shadow Health Minister is backing the general principles of the Bill.

At present, people must opt in to the system to donate their organs for transplants after they die. Under the proposals published at the Scottish Parliament, it will be assumed people were in favour of donation unless they have stated otherwise.

A total of 107 MSPs backed the move, Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles voted against and SNP MSPs Christine Grahame and Colin Beattie abstained.

Mr Stewart, describing the legislation as ‘crucial’ asked:

“How do we raise the level of organ donations in Scotland to match the needs of those desperately awaiting transplantation?”

He explained that 426 patients died in the UK whilst on the transplant list or within one year of removal from the list in 2018.

Scotland has the highest percentage of people on the Organ Donation Register in the UK, but the lowest actual organ donation in terms of rates per million.  Family authorisation is also low in Scotland.

David Stewart said:

David Stewart MSP“The key issue is the gap between those who wish to donate organs and the number who actually go on to join the Organ Donation Register – 80% support donation, but only 52% have signed up to the donation register,” he told MSPs during the debate.

“We know from background research by British Heart Foundation that people living in countries with soft opt out were 17-29% more willing to donate their organs.

“In general terms, soft opt out means that unless the deceased has expressed a wish in life not to be an organ donor, consent will be assumed.  Of the top 10 countries in terms of donors per million, nine have an opt out system.

David Stewart  told MSPs about his friend Gary, who is in his mid-fifties and lives in Fife.

“Nearly two years ago, he was given the gift of life by a crucially needed heart transplant.  Prior to that, he was on the transplant list for 12 months and had a pacemaker.  But he was slowly deteriorating – without the transplant he would have died.

“Gary cannot praise enough the dedicated support of the nursing staff at the Golden Jubilee.  He said to me, ‘it was a matter of life or death’”

 “This is a vitally important piece of legislation which will improve Scotland’s position in international league of organ donation and will literally be a matter of life and death for many Scots, like my friend Gary – desperately in need of a life-saving organ donation.”

The vote at  stage 1 of the Bill was For: 107 Against: 1 Abstentions: 2

You can watch the whole debate here

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