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Scotland to move to opt-out organ donation system

Doctors have welcomed the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a ‘soft opt-out’ system for organ donation.

It comes after a consultation found 82% of respondents were in support of the move.

Under the current system, anyone wanting to donate an organ after their death has to opt in under the donor card scheme to which 45% of the Scottish population has signed up.

A soft opt-out system means that organs can be donated after death without express permission but removal of organs would not go ahead without support from next of kin and families.

Such a system was introduced in Wales in 2015 and early on showed signs of saving lives.

Scottish public health minister Aileen Campbell said legislation would be introduced within this Parliament and was part of a package of measures already in place to increase donation.

She said: ‘I’d like to thank everyone who took part in our consultation on increasing organ and tissue donation, which received more than 800 responses including a petition with 18,500 signatures in support of opt out.

‘We need to continue doing what we can in order to help reduce the numbers of people in Scotland waiting for transplants. Moving to an opt out system of organ and tissue donation will be part of the long term culture change in attitudes to encourage people to support donation.’

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of BMA Scotland, said: ‘Organ transplantation is an area that has seen amazing medical achievements but has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential… As doctors it’s difficult to see our patients suffering and dying when their lives could be saved or dramatically improved by a transplant.

‘If properly implemented, with adequate resources and staff, and backed up by a high profile campaign, an opt-out system could save or transform peoples’ lives. We look forward to contributing to this important legislation.’

A recent BMA survey showed two thirds of people across the UK supported an opt-out organ donation system.