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'Soft opt-out' organ donor scheme planned for Scotland

Consent for donations will be presumed unless patients' next of kin object.

Life-saving gift: Scotland has the highest proportion of organ donors in the UK. ITV

The Scottish Government will introduce plans to create a “soft opt-out” organ donation scheme, the public health minister has announced.

Aileen Campbell pledged to bring forward legislation at Holyrood after 82% of people who took part in a public consultation backed the change.

Under the proposals, NHS Scotland will assume all deceased patients consented to donate their organs unless they previously stated otherwise.

The next of kin could still object and the family’s opinion would be respected.

Campbell said the move would form “part of the long-term culture change in attitudes to encourage people to support donation”.

The Scottish Government received more than 800 responses to its consultation – including a petition signed by 18,500 people in favour of the change.

The minister said: “As a result, I can confirm that we intend to bring forward legislation to introduce a soft opt-out system.

“This will build on the significant improvements already made as a result of the donation and transplantation plan for Scotland.”

She added: “We should not forget that organ donation is a gift, which can only occur as a result of tragic circumstances and every donor and their family has made a selfless decision which has enabled others to live.

“We need to continue doing what we can in order to help reduce the numbers of people in Scotland waiting for transplants.

“Moving to an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation will be part of the long-term culture change in attitudes to encourage people to support donation.”

Scotland has the highest proportion of organ donors of any part of the UK.

Around 45% of people in Scotland are currently signed up to the donation scheme.

Campbell made the announcement after a meeting with Michael Hanlon, a patient who received a life-saving heart transplant.

Mr Hanlon, 56, waited nine months for his organ transplant at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Glasgow.

He said: “The transplant meant everything. It was the only cure for what I had and I knew things were getting worse towards the end.

“As much as I tried to stay positive, it became really difficult, for me and my family. Doctors are really pleased with my progress. I have a long way to go but I feel great.

“There’s so many people still waiting in Scotland and I want to use what I went through to make people aware of just how important organ donation is. Organ donors are nothing short of heroes.”

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