BMA Scotland today [Monday 17 November 2008] expressed its disappointment over the Organ Donation Taskforce's recommendations not to proceed to an "opt-out" system for organ donation. However, the Taskforce did recognise the importance of improving organ donation rates.

According to current figures for Scotland, there are currently more than 800 people waiting for a donor organ. In 2007, only 271 organ transplants took place.

Every year people die whilst waiting for a donor organ and evidence from other countries has shown that a system of presumed consent can address the shortage of donor organs and can save lives. Research has also found growing support for a change to the system with around 60% in favour of an 'opt out' system.

Dr George Fernie a member of the BMA's Scottish Council, said:

"The BMA is disappointed by the taskforce's findings. There are currently two constraints affecting organ transplants: the lack of organs and the shortage of facilities to make transplants possible. We recognise that presumed consent will not, on its own, solve the problems of organ donation in this country, however, it could result in a 10-15% increase in donated organs - if sufficient surgeons, intensive care beds and transplant co-ordinators were put in place.

"We are pleased that the taskforce has said that the current organ donor system should be reviewed again in five years. That time will allow the Scottish Government the opportunity to hold a public debate in the context of improved NHS services following the implementation of the taskforce's first set of recommendations.
"Regardless of the split in opinion on the system of organ donation, we all have a shared goal to increase the number of organ transplants and it is important that this message is not overlooked as the debate progresses. People need to talk about organ donation with their friends and family so that their wishes are known and most importantly, that people register their wishes on the organ donor register so that they can give the most valuable gift of all, the gift of life."

Note

The taskforce report is available online at: dh/organdonationtaskforce.

A soft system of presumed consent:

The BMA supports a system of soft presumed consent, with safeguards, for organ donation by deceased people over the age of 16. In this system, relatives' views would always be taken into account.

The BMA believes that genuine choice over organ donation can be facilitated through a soft system of presumed consent whereby adults can choose to opt-out of organ donation during their lifetime, rather than having to opt into donation, as is the status quo. A culture in which donation is perceived as the norm rather than the exception would fit better with what most people claim to support. Rigorous safeguards are imperative to such a system, in order to ensure genuine choice is protected. In our view, relatives must still have a role in the organ donation process.

Useful background information on the BMA's policy on organ donation is available online at: bma/ap.nsf/Content/presumedconsent

BMA Scotland
14 Queen Street
Edinburgh
EH2 1LL
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