The Scottish Parliament has passed legislation to introduce an opt out system of organ and tissue donation.

Under the opt-out system, if an adult does not opt in or opt out of donation, they may be deemed to have authorised donation for transplantation. This means it will be assumed that they are willing to donate their organs/tissue when they die unless they have confirmed that they do not want to be a donor, for example by recording a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. The Bill includes safeguards to ensure that donation will not go ahead where it would be against the person’s wishes.

There will be at least 12 months before the new system is introduced to ensure that people have information about what the changes mean and what their choices are. The awareness raising campaign will be launching later this later. The Scottish Government will also be working with stakeholders to ensure that systems and training for health professionals are in place to deliver the opt out system.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick

Scottish Minister for Health, Sport and Wellbeing visits the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Pictured are Joe Fitzpatrick MSP (centre) with transplant case studies Jamie McGregor (right) and Clare Blake (left).

Speaking after the vote, Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick MPS (pictured above) said:

Organ and tissue donation can be a life-changing gift. Evidence shows that opt-out systems can make a difference as part of a wider package of measures and this Bill provides further opportunities to both save and improve lives.

The Minister met transplant recipients Clare Blake and Jamie McGregor to hear about their experiences. He heard how Clare Blake’s life was transformed by a life-saving liver transplant five years ago. She voiced her support for moving to an opt out system, highlighting the importance of people thinking about and sharing their organ donation decision:

It’s totally a personal choice, and you have to be respectful of people’s reasons for choosing not to donate. But actually making that decision is important. Hopefully the change in the system will encourage people to think about it and discuss their wishes with their family. That chat is so important and it takes all of five minutes.

This follows on from Wales, who have had their opt out system in place since 2015. England will adopt a similar opt out system from early 2020.

If you have questions about the changes to organ and tissue donation, click on the following link: Opt Out at Organ Donation Scotland.