LABOUR MSP Richard Simpson was among the first politicians to call for a change to Scotland's transplant laws.

He produced a draft report for the Health and Sport Committee in the Autumn of 2002, recommending the government switch to an opt-out system.

He says: "As a GP I witnessed the deaths of a number of patients whilst waiting for transplants.

"The way the law is framed at present is that unless the deceased is a registered donor one has to ask for positive consent ie a decision on behalf of the deceased rather than asking them if they know of any reason that their loved one would have objected.

"This is easier than the family, at a time of maximum grief, being asked to make a decision on behalf of the deceased.

"I was aware in 2001 of one family where their son had died in a motorcycle accident and they were too upset to give permission.

"Later, they expressed regret that they hadn't agreed.

"In discussions with them it seemed clear that had the question been framed differently they would have been more likely to have agreed - Do you think your son would would have objected to "donation and what would you feel for yourself? So that continued respect for the family

"One of the most cogent arguments in my report was the research which showed a high number of families who regretted their refusal one year on.

"Research suggested that this regret was true in the majority of families who refused.

"There will be vocal opposition (to opt-out) but general support, provided that there is an opt out register for those against and it is made clear that unless the person is on the donor list the family will still be asked. Even if a person is on the register the family will still be asked if they were aware of any change of heart.

"This is called 'soft' opt out, which maintains respect for the family and will help increase donations.

"I believe they should introduce an opt out register now and make both opt in and opt out widely known then activate the 'soft' opt out one year later.

"In addition, I would offer some incentives to health boards to ensure that all possible deaths are considered for transplant. This is still not happening. I would also offer a small cash thank you to the family.

"I understand the Scottish Government's caution, but meantime how many people are dying unnecessarily or are getting a transplant when they are in much poorer health."