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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 12:23 GMT
New organ donation law approved
Organ Donation
The new law is expected to clarify organ donation
MSPs have approved a new law on organ donation aimed at bringing clarity to the issue of consent.

The move is expected to give doctors greater authority to remove organs for transplant.

But the British Medical Association said it fell short of the "opt out" system it believed would help save the lives of about 50 patients each year.

The Human Tissue (Scotland) Bill will strengthen the present system of "opting in" to organ transplants.

If a person had made it clear before their death, either by signing a donor card or indicating by word of mouth to relatives, then his or her organs could be used.

'Missed opportunity'

But if the person had left no indication of his wishes, then relatives or close friends would be asked what they thought they would have wanted.

The Scottish Executive and Holyrood's health committee have decided that Scotland is not yet ready to introduce "opt-out" donation system seen in countries such as Belgium.

However, the BMA said it was a missed opportunity.

Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald said: "We firmly believe that building upon the current opt-in system is the right way forward for Scotland.

"Millions of people in the UK carry organ donor cards and have made a positive choice to put their name on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

The Organ Donor Register will be strengthened so that it will act more like a living will
John Forsyth
Transplant surgeon

"I am confident we have produced a bill that is fully respectful of people's individual rights to make that choice."

The minister was supported by nurses' leaders, who disagreed with the BMA.

Head of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland Jane McCready said: "Nurses appreciate the impact waiting for a transplant has on patients and their families.

"However, an opt-out system is both wrong in principle and practically unworkable.

"Previous scandals involving the retention of children's organs have made it clear that health professionals should never presume consent."

Profession split

She went on: "Neither should we interpret a person's silence as agreement to donate.

"We cannot allow apathy to become the basis for such an important decision."

Transplant consultant at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary John Forsyth said: "I am delighted that the new legislation attempts to establish the primacy of the donor's views in the tragic situation where organ donation may occur.

"In addition, the Organ Donor Register will be strengthened so that it will act more like a living will."

At least 50 people in Scotland die each year while waiting for an organ transplant and although 90% of the population support organ donation, only 21% have so far signed up to the organ donor register.

Doctors urge organ donor opt-out
02 Oct 05 |  Scotland
Organ donor bid rejected by MPs
28 Jun 04 |  UK Politics

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