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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008, 19:08 GMT
Organ donor numbers 'must rise'
Organ donation campaign
The latest campaign is designed to drive up donation rates
Organ donation rates in Scotland must improve to address a "desperate shortage", MSPs have been told.

It came as the Scottish Government launched a drive to increase the number of people signing up for donation and the issue was debated at Holyrood.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said she is becoming "increasingly sympathetic" towards an opt-out system.

The parliament also heard that the family of former First Minister Donald Dewar allowed his organs to be donated.

Scotland's organ donation rate is the lowest in the UK
Nicola Sturgeon
Health Secretary

Statistics show only 29% of Scots have joined the register despite recent research indicating that 93% of adults back organ donation.

Highlighting the urgency of the new campaign to encourage donors to sign up, Ms Sturgeon told the chamber: "The fact is that in spite of all our efforts to date, Scotland's organ donation rate is the lowest in the UK, at 9.8 per million population.

"In turn, the UK's donation rate - 13.2 per million population - is one of the lowest in the EU - countries like Spain have shown that rates of 33 per million population are possible."

On top of the advertising drive, she admitted a "full and open" debate was needed on the presumed consent.

The system would mean consent for organ donation is assumed unless individuals opt-out and is currently being considered by the UK organ donation taskforce.

Retrieval issues

Labour's health spokeswoman Margaret Curran said 100 people died in Scotland in 2006/07 either while they were on the organ donation transplant list or after being removed because they were too ill.

She said "decisive action" was needed around the issues of retrieval and co-ordination.

"I think that will make a significant contribution as long as they are delivered effectively and we could push towards that taskforce commitment of 50% donations within the next five years," she added.

"It is vital that that is effectively delivered."

Organ transplant
Dozens of people die before a suitable donor is found

Conservative health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon also called for improved systems.

She said: "There's a desperate need to build up the infrastructure of staff, beds and co-ordinators to increase the number of transplants.

"This is far more urgent than imposing a system of presumed consent."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Ross Finnie argued that the recommendations in the UK taskforce report could have more impact on increasing the levels of organ donation than by changing to a system of presumed consent.

"A properly informed debate would be assisted by a decent level of time to allow these to take place before we come to conclusions about what might or might not be a better system," he added.

'Brave decision'

Labour MSP David Whitton gave an emotional account in parliament of Mr Dewar's death in 2000 and the dilemma his children faced.

There had been a delay in Mr Dewar's case while the family waited on a transplant co-ordinator, according to the MSP who called for more of these to be recruited.

Mr Whitton was an advisor to Mr Dewar at the time and broke the news of his death from a brain haemorrhage after a fall.

"I don't know if Donald expressed any views to his family about organ donation," he said.

"But what I do know is that they took a very brave and sensitive decision that they believed their dad would have wanted his organs to be used by someone in need and they gave that permission."

SEE ALSO
Effort to increase organ donation
16 Jan 08 |  Scotland
'Sympathy' for organ donor change
13 Jan 08 |  Scotland
MSPs reject organ donor opt-out
02 Feb 06 |  Scotland

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