DOCTORS' leaders have urged Scots politicians to support 'in principle' a bill which could increase transplants by 30% in Scotland.
Tomorrow, MSPs will be asked to vote on Glasgow Labour MSP Anne McTaggart's bill to introduce a 'soft' opt-out system, which means individuals are not required to sign up to the organ donor register if they wish to donate organs after death.
The bill did not receive majority support from the Health and Sport Committee due to some concerns over technical aspects but MSPs said: 'there may be merit in developing a workable soft opt-out system for Scotland.'
The British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland believe it is possible to amend the current bill - at stage 1 - to address concerns to avoid delaying the opportunity to increase donation rates further.
The Housing Scotland Bill was passed after receiving 155 amendments at stage two.
Both the BMA and British Heart Foundation Scotland have urged the SNP government to legislate itself if the bill is rejected. A new YouGov poll is said to indicate that 54% in the UK are in favour of the change.
Ms McTaggart's bill was launched on the back of the Evening Times' Opt for Life campaign, which has been running for five years.
Our campaign was backed by SNP ministers including Public Health Minister Maureen Watt and Humza Yousaf. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former leader Alex Salmond have also voiced support for deemed consent, which was introduce in Wales in December 2015.
A BMA spokeswoman said: "Whilst we were disappointed that the Committee could not recommend the general principles of the Bill, we were encouraged by its statement that “there may be merit in developing a workable soft opt-out system for Scotland."
"We believe that genuine choice over organ donation can be facilitated through a soft opt-out system whereby adults – who have been well informed of the options – can choose to opt-out of organ donation during their lifetime, rather than having to opt in to donation, as is the status quo.
"We note from the Health and Sport Committee’s Stage 1 report that the majority of members did not think that there was enough clear evidence to demonstrate that specifically changing to the opt-out system of organ donation would result in an increase in donations.
"It is notoriously difficult to assess the impact of opt-out legislation on donation rates, because of the problem of separating out the effect of opt-out from other factors that are known to affect donation rates. "It will never be possible to obtain a result showing a clear cause and effect.
"The available evidence suggests that presumed consent legislation is associated with an increase in organ donation rates.
"The BMA has always argued that an opt-out system must have public support before and after it is introduced.
"If there is widespread support for the system, the chance of people opting out in protest is significantly reduced; other countries that have introduced such systems have not experienced this problem. In Wales, where an opt-out system has just been introduced only around 3% of the population had opted out, as at November 2015.
""If this bill is rejected at Stage 1, we would call on the Scottish Government to take up the Health and Sport Committee’s recommendation to bring forward proposals to increase organ donations and transplants in Scotland, including soft opt-out, as a priority in the next Parliament."
Repeated surveys show that up to 90% of people support organ donation but, for various reasons, less than half of Scotland’s population is registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR).
New figures from the Welsh government show 74% of people are now aware of the change, compared to 69% in December.
The number of people who had discussed their organ donation decisions with their family has also risen slightly to 47%.
TV's Lorraine Kelly has been a strong supporter of the Evening Times' Opt for Life campaign.
She said: "Tuesday is a massive day for the #OptForLife campaign and for everyone who has been involved in bringing Anne McTaggart’s Bill to this point.
" For the first time in the history of the Scottish Parliament, MSP’s will have the opportunity to vote in favour of the principle of ‘soft opt-out’.
"This could lead to an extra 70 donors in Scotland, a move that NHS Blood & Transplant have described as ‘transformative’ for organ donation in this country.
"I sincerely hope that MSP’s of all parties will take this chance to provide hope to the hundreds of people across Scotland who are waiting on a transplant. Any time we waste now means that more lives will be lost.”