Opt-out organ donation shift wins backing

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Bibo Keeley

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Brian and Bibo Keeley got married in hospital while he awaited a heart transplant

A shift to an “opt-out” system for organ donation has been back by MSPs on Holyrood’s health committee.

They expressed support for the bill which would see a major change to the system in Scotland.

At present, people must “opt in” by registering to donate their organs for transplants after they die.

Under the bill before the Scottish Parliament, it will be assumed people were in favour of donation unless they have stated otherwise.

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About 500 people in Scotland are waiting for an organ transplant

The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill will now be considered by the full parliament.

It follows similar legislation passed in Wales in 2015 and allows parts of an adult’s body to be used in transplants in the absence of express permission.

However, it includes provisions to make sure the wishes of families and next of kin continue to be respected, and excludes children and adults who do not have the capacity to understand the rules.

The health committee heard evidence that donor numbers had increased since the current law was introduced in 2006, with more than half of Scotland’s population registered to donate their organs or tissue after their death – the highest rate in Britain.

However, at any one time in Scotland there are more than 500 people waiting for a transplant, which could save or transform their lives.

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Lewis Macdonald said the committee supported the move

Committee convener Lewis Macdonald said he thought moving to the opt-out system was the “correct approach”.

However, he said there needed to an “awareness-raising campaign” so people were familiar and comfortable with the change.

He said: “This will ensure everyone can have confidence in this new approach while engagement should be ongoing and include targeting harder-to-reach groups.”