14th December, 2015
Organ Donation Bill
ON Monday I visited the renal unit at Inverclyde Royal Hospital which provides dialysis for patients who have acute kidney failure. During the visit I was glad to have the opportunity to talk with patients and staff.
One of the hot topics for discussion that came up was the current Organ Donation Bill being proposed by Labour MSP Anne McTaggart.
Last year there were less than 100 organ donors in Scotland but there are over 500 people currently on the waiting list, including one of the patients I met on Monday.
The Bill proposes a ‘soft opt-out’ system which would permit the removal of a deceased person’s organs if they hadn’t objected during their lifetime. Presently we have an ‘opt-in system’ in Scotland where an individual must express their choice to donate organs prior to their death.
Those in favour of the Bill have pointed to the example of Spain which introduced ‘soft opt-out’ legislation for organ donation in 1979 and now has the highest rate of donations from deceased donors in Europe.
However, those on the other side of the debate have raised concerns. For instance, some argue that the Bill has the potential to cause additional distress to families who have lost a loved one in what is already a very difficult time.
Another message coming from those who have provided evidence before the committee is that more must be done to raise public awareness if we are to increase donation rates.
We want a situation where organ donation is talked about in all settings – between families, in schools, colleges and universities.
Given the sensitivity of this issue, and the huge ethical dilemma it creates, the committee will give serious thought as to whether this Bill along with other measures will improve donation rates and ultimately save lives.
We will report on our findings in the New Year.