Scotland politics

Free Kirk backs Scottish voluntary organ donation

Image caption Body parts can currently only be removed from people in Scotland who signed up for the organ donation scheme before their death

A former moderator of the Free Church of Scotland has urged the Scottish government to look at a more efficient system for organ donation.

Prof Donald MacDonald argued that this would be more effective than ditching the present opt-in system.

The Scottish Parliament will this week debate the creation of an opt-out system, where people are presumed to have consented to organ donation.

The proposal is in a members' bill backed by Labour MSP Anne McTaggart.

Prof MacDonald believes the example of Spain, which he said has a more rigorous approach to encouraging voluntary donations, should be looked at instead.

He said: "Quite apart from the moral and ethical objections to the bill voiced by most of the religious bodies who gave evidence, no convincing evidence that an opt-out system improves the rate of donation and transplantation was presented.

"We should home in on evidence obtained from the head of the transplant service in Spain, which has a very high rate of organ donation and transplantation."

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Image caption Spain is said to operate a successful example of an "opt-in" donation system

Spain had an "opt-out" system of presumed consent to organ donation for 10 years, but abandoned it in favour of a revamped opt-in system in 1989.

Prof MacDonald added: "A national transplant organisation was set up with an efficient system of identification and referral of donors, collection of organs and liaising with relatives.

"Only since then did the number of organs available for transplantation increase to the present high levels."

Ms McTaggart has cited evidence which said that three people died every day across the UK waiting for a transplant. She claimed her legislation could save lives.

"That's what the bill is about. It's about making more organs available to people who need them, ultimately," she said.

Holyrood's health committee last month said it backed the aim, but not the detail, of Ms McTaggart's bill.

Committee convener Duncan McNeil said it recognised the "devastating impact on all aspects of family life of those who are waiting for donated organs".

He added: "As a committee we have to consider all the evidence placed in front of us and it was clear that there are differing views about the best way to increase donation rates.

"While the committee supported the aim behind the legislation, a majority couldn't support the detail."

Image caption The number of people registered as organ donors has increased in Scotland over the past decade

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