Opt-out organ donation system could cause ‘backlash’, MSPs told

A system to create an opt-out approach to organ donation could face a backlash from families, a Holyrood committee has been told.

Plans have been submitted to move Scotland on to a scheme in which people would be presumed to consent to their organs being donated.

Currently, Scotland operates under an opt-in system where individuals must register as organ donors.

Questions have been raised about the prospect of families being unaware of what the bill could mean for them and whether organ donation would be a compulsory process if a family member did not declare whether or not they would want to opt out.

Harpreet Brrang, of the Children's Liver Disease Foundation, said the system would still allow family members to choose to opt out.

She said: "Some members of the public might think that they're being forced into donating the organs of their family member – it's encouraging people to make a choice about it.

"I think there might be a lot of backlash from not making it clear to people what that family's role is.

"It might not be overly clear to that family member what the information is that they need to provide and how to provide it.

"I think as long as that is made clear enough and they're still involved in that process then I think the opt-out approach could still work.

"It's about changing people's perceptions of what it actually is."

Gillian Hollis, who received a lung transplant in 2004, told the committee her views on moving to an opt-out system have changed.

She said: "Opt-out to me immediately after my transplant, I was completely in favour of it, I thought it was a no-brainer, why would you not?

"I've been working on committees and groups associated with transplantation for the last six years in particular and I've found that my view has changed a bit – I'm not convinced that moving to an opt-out system is the right means of doing it.

Ms Hollis also indicated it is important people still feel they will have the choice to make a donation.

She said: "The gift is something that is very important. I owe my life to my donor and their family and the fact it was an active decision to gift a lung to me and a heart to the girl who was transplanted the same night as me in the same hospital ... we really appreciate that gift.

"I think it's very important that that element of gift is retained as much as possible because it is people helping other people. A donation is a true gift."

Legislation was passed in Wales in 2015 that allows parts of an adult's body to be used in transplants in the absence of express permission.

David McColgan, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "We don't see moving to a soft opt-out system as removing that choice of a gift. All we see it as is a change in the initial conversation.

"People will still be perfectly within their right to opt-out. People will actually be able to register their objections more strongly and legally than they currently can."