“Soft opt out” organ donation consultation

  • Date: 08 December 2016

PLANS for a “soft opt out” system of organ donation – where consent is presumed unless the patient opted out – have been put out for consultation by the Scottish Government.

The move is a bid to find ways of increasing the number of organ and tissue donors.

Among the proposals are plans for a soft opt out – or deemed authorisation – system. This would allow organ and/or tissue donation to proceed when a person dies in hospital unless they had opted out via the NHS Organ Donor Register or had told their family they did not wish to donate.

The consultation also wants views on whether clinicians in Scotland should be given guidance to encourage them to refer potential organ or tissue donors to specialist donor staff, so that the possibility of donation can be explored at an earlier opportunity.

The NHS in Scotland has already seen a 29 per cent increase in deceased donors in the eight months since April compared to the same period last year – rising from 60 to 85. As at December 4, 2016, there were 531 people in Scotland on the active transplant waiting list.

Public Health and Sport minister Aileen Campbell said more needs to be done. She said: “In particular, we have agreed to consider the introduction of a soft opt out system of donation if this can be developed in a way which will do no harm to trust in the NHS, or to the safety of transplantation. We will also be monitoring progress in Wales carefully to learn lessons from their experience of introducing a new opt out system.

“I am keen to hear views on these proposals and the others included in this consultation and would encourage people to respond to the questions we have raised.”

Scotland’s Lead Clinician for Organ Donation, Dr Iain Macleod, added: "As a doctor working in the intensive care unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary I know how sensitive and challenging organ donation can be, both for families going through the devastating process of losing a loved one and for NHS staff.

"However, I also know how important donation is in saving and transforming the lives of hundreds of transplant recipients in Scotland every year and also how much comfort it can give to donors’ families over time to know that their loved one has helped save the lives of others."

The consultation is open until March 14, 2017 here

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