Increasing organ donation and transplantation

Consultation on increasing numbers of successful donors.

People across Scotland are being asked to give their views on organ and tissue donation, including the introduction of a potential soft opt out system.

The 14-week consultation is looking for views on increasing the number of organ and tissue donors. 

The key points explored in the consultation are:

  • whether Scotland should move to a soft opt out – or deemed authorisation – system of donation. This would allow organ and/or tissue donation to proceed when a person dies in hospital unless they had ‘opted out’ via the NHS Organ Donor Register or had told their family they did not wish to donate.
  • whether clinicians in Scotland should be given guidance to encourage them to refer potential organ or tissue donors to specialist donor staff, so that the possibility of donation can be explored at an earlier opportunity.

Launching the consultation at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh’s renal and transplant high dependency unit, Public Health and Sport Minister Aileen Campbell said:

“Organ and tissue donation saves lives and is one of the greatest gifts a person can give.

“With the amazing help of donors and their families, the NHS in Scotland has achieved a huge amount in recent years. This year, there have been 85 deceased organ donors in the eight months since April, compared to 60 over the same period last year.

“However, there is more we can do for those who are still waiting for a transplant and it’s essential that we make sure we’re doing all we can.

“That is why we are launching this consultation which looks at ways in which we could increase the number of people being referred to the donation services in Scotland and the number of times when donation is ‘authorised’ to proceed. 

“In particular, we have agreed to consider the introduction of a soft opt out system of donation if this can be developed in a way which will do no harm to trust in the NHS, or to the safety of transplantation. We will also be monitoring progress in Wales carefully to learn lessons from their experience of introducing a new opt out system.

“I am keen to hear views on these proposals and the others included in this consultation and would encourage people to respond to the questions we have raised.”

Scotland’s Lead Clinician for Organ Donation, Dr Iain Macleod, said:

“I welcome this consultation as an opportunity to discuss ways of increasing organ and tissue donation and hear views from a wide range of people. 

“As a doctor working in the Intensive Care Unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary I know how sensitive and challenging organ donation can be, both for families going through the devastating process of losing a loved one and for NHS staff.  However, I also know how important donation is in saving and transforming the lives of hundreds of transplant recipients in Scotland every year and also how much comfort it can give to donors’ families over time to know that their loved one has helped save the lives of others.”


The consultation can be found here:

  • The consultation will run from 7 December 2016 to 14 March 2017.
  • There were 99 deceased organ donors in 2015-16 (some of whom also donated tissue/ corneas), along with an additional 19 tissue only donors and 118 cornea donors.
  • There have already been 85 deceased organ donors between April and November 2016 compared to 60 in the same period last year.
  • As at 4 December 2016, there were 531 people in Scotland on the active transplant waiting list.
  • Currently in Scotland, organ and tissue donation after a person’s death only occurs if the person made clear in advance that they wished to be a donor (for example by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register) or where their nearest relative authorises the donation on their behalf.
  • Anyone wishing to join the Organ Donor Register can do so by visiting the Organ Donation Scotland website. This website can also be used by those who wish to update their registration details or to register their wish not to be a donor.


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