• STV
  • MySTV

'Momentous day' as MSPs pass organ donation opt-out law

Scots will now have to declare that they don't want to donate their organs after death.

Approved: The Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament.
Approved: The Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament. Pixabay

A Bill to introduce a soft "opt-out" system for organ and tissue donation has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill received a majority backing by MSPs following a debate by full parliament on Tuesday.

Up until now, donors have been required to "opt-in" in order for their organs to be donated, with many people carrying a donor card.

Now, Scotland will move to a system of presuming consent for organ donations.

Joe FitzPatrick, minister for public health, sport and wellbeing, told STV News that it was a "momentous day for Scotland".

He said: "I think this is a momentous day for Scotland today.

"It's the biggest change in organ donation legislation in Scotland since the Scottish Parliament came to power and I'm really excited."

Supporters of the Bill - which was introduced in June last year - believe it will increase the number of potential life-saving donors.

The Health and Sport Committee threw its support behind the legislation after hearing evidence from members of the public and a range of stakeholders, including witnesses from Wales where a similar "opt out" system was introduced in 2015.

'We know that overwhelmingly most people in Scotland would want their organs to be used if they were to die in circumstances where that was possible, but that doesn't always happen.'
Joe FitzPatrick, minister for public health, sport and wellbeing

Under the new rules, anyone over the age of 16 who has lived in Scotland for at least a year is considered to be a consenting donor, unless they opt-out.

However, the Bill 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.

A campaign will be launched to raise awareness of the new law, however Mr FitzPatrick is urging members of the public to speak to their families about their final wishes.

The SNP MSP said: "I want to do everything we can to make sure we maximise the numbers of organ donations that are possible.

'But it's really crucial that people have the conversations with their families, so their families know what their wishes would be.'
Joe FitzPatrick, minister for public health, sport and wellbeing

"We know that overwhelmingly most people in Scotland would want their organs to be used if they were to die in circumstances where that was possible, but that doesn't always happen.

"We have the organ donation register, and I'd still encourage people to do that, but deemed authorisation means that more people's wishes would be enacted upon.

"But it's really crucial that people have the conversations with their families, so their families know what their wishes would be.

"In terms of making sure people are aware of the legislation, we'll have at least a 12-months awareness-raising campaign across Scotland, raising awareness.

"And I hope as well as making sure people are aware of the new legislation, it will encourage them to have those conversations with their family."

'Organ transplants save lives, can improve quality of life and increased donations can reduce anxious waits on transplant waiting lists.'
Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon said the new law will "reduce anxious waits on transplant waiting lists".

She stated: "The passing of this Bill has the potential to save lives and have a transformative impact for people across Scotland.

"Scottish Labour has long been supportive of a soft opt-out system for organ donation, and I am delighted this Bill has passed today.

"The positive impact of organ donation cannot be understated. Organ transplants save lives, can improve quality of life and increased donations can reduce anxious waits on transplant waiting lists.

"Effective implementation is crucial, and the Scottish Government must invest in infrastructure, training and education to support an increase in organ donation."

Support for the new legislation

More than half of Scotland's population are already 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.

British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland supports the new legislation, but stressed that infrastructure must be put in place that "maximises and follows through to people's wishes".

David McColgan, senior policy and public affairs manager at BHF Scotland, believes the new Bill is just the "start of the conversation".

He said: "Organ donation is a really life-threatening moment, so people who are waiting on organs are in dire need of these transplants.

"We know in Scotland that people are willing to donate their organs - the big challenge is only 1% of people in Scotland will ever die in a situation where that can happen.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1438402-msps-to-vote-on-presumed-consent-for-organ-donation/ | default

"So we need to create a system that maximises and follows through to people's wishes.

"Family consent is a big problem in Scotland - we've got the lowest rate of family consent in the rest of the UK.

"So, we're hoping with the organ donation Bill passing today, that will normalise organ donation in Scotland.

"But that's not the end of the conversation. We need to look at infrastructure and staff training as well.

"Today's passing of the Bill is the start of a conversation, not the end of it."

Life-saving story

Steve Donaldson, from Largs in North Ayrshire, had a heart transplant in 2010 after suffering severe heart failure.

He waited nine months on the organ donor transplant list before a suitable donor was found.

He said: "Any time the phone goes, you're like 'is it for me?'.

"It was quite demoralising waiting for the phone call because sometimes you thought 'is it ever going to come?'

"I'm just glad that the person's heart that I've got, they had the conversation with their family to say that they wanted to be an organ donor, and I can't thank them enough.

"It's changed my life so, so, so much. I went from literally being house-bound to being able to do all this cycling and travelling the world, and wow, it's a second life.

"I mean this guy, who I got his heart; he's the biggest hero in the world.

"Don't know who he is - all I can do is thank that family that they said yes. Every day he's through my mind - that I wouldn't be here without these guys."

In July, the 57-year-old will be competing in the British Transplant Games ahead of the World Transplant Games this autumn.

He added: "Taking part in the Transplant Games is something I never dreamed I would be able to do, but life is for living and I'm so looking forward to it.

"It's also allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who have been through similar experiences.

"My message to everyone is please sign the Organ Donation Register and have that conversation with your family about your wishes.

"It really can make all the difference. I fully back the Bill to move to an opt-out system.

"I am living proof of the difference a transplant can make."

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
ShowHide
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.