Evening Times Opt for Life organ donation campaign hits 10,000 petition target

EVENING Times readers have spoken.

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Face of our campaign Kyle Aitken, seven, and Kidney Research Scotland volunteer Jim Farrell, right, who has had two transplants, celebrate hitting 10,000 signature target Kyle Aitken, 7, and Jim Farrell celebrate our Opt Out campaign hitting the 10,000 signatures mark
Face of our campaign Kyle Aitken, seven, and Kidney Research Scotland volunteer Jim Farrell, right, who has had two transplants, celebrate hitting 10,000 signature target Kyle Aitken, 7, and Jim Farrell celebrate our Opt Out campaign hitting the 10,000 signatures mark

Our campaign to change Scotland's organ donation laws has smashed its 10,000 petition target.

Thousands of you agree that the Scottish Government should switch to an "opt-out" system of organ donation to help save more lives.

It would mean that, unless people "opt out" in their lifetime, hospitals would be allowed to use organs for transplants.

We have achieved our petition target months before it is due to be delivered to Holyrood, with the help of major charity, Kidney Research UK (Scotland).

Three people in the UK die each day waiting for a transplant.

We believe the Scottish Government must do every- thing it can to boost the number of donors, like "opt out" countries including Belgium, Spain and, most recently, Wales.

Without changing the system, it is not. Changes to the transplant infrastructure are not enough if organs are not available or are being wasted.

Scotland already has a higher percentage of donors than the rest of the UK – at 37% – but this still means that more than half the country is not on the register.

Research carried out by the Evening Times has proved what we already know – that most people support organ donation but do not get round to signing the register.

An "opt-out" system would address the discrepancy that is costing lives.

Evening Times Editor Tony Carlin said: "The enormous public support for the Evening Times Opt For Life campaign shows a real desire to change outdated legislation and to save lives.

"A switch to presumed consent – or 'opt out' – for organ donation would, almost at a stroke, stop lives being damaged or lost because of shortages of donors.

"Scotland has led the world on numerous health issues such as smoking and alcohol abuse.

"A change in organ donation legislation has such strong public support because it offers the opportunity to transform so many lives. Hopefully the Government will listen receptively to those public voices and act now."

Jackie Baillie, Labour's shadow health spokes- woman, said: "This is a fanatastic achiement on the part of the Evening Times.

"It shows that the people of Scotland are clearly wanting to ensure that we have a system of organ donation that benefits as many people as possible.

"I congratulate the Evening Times for starting the petition.

"The Welsh are bringing in legislation. I believe it is now time for the Scottish Government to follow the lead of Wales."

Our campaign has been backed by the British Medical Association (BMA), the British Heart Foundation Scotland, Scottish Kidney Federation, Diabetes UK and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

High-profile celebrities have also pledged their support for our campaign, including Scots movie star Robert Carlyle and tele- vision presenter Lorraine Kelly.

Kidney Research UK has been busy promoting the petition among local groups, firms, hospitals, universities and GP surgeries across the Central Belt.

Our campaign has also struck a chord with major companies including The Body Shop which has also pledged its support along with dozens of businesses in the Central Belt and Glasgow City Council.

Transplant patients, families and those who are still waiting have rallied behind the cause, helping to distribute the petition.

More than half of MSPs supported a motion raised by SNP MSP Humza Yousaf in support of our campaign.

He said: "I would congratulate the Evening Times for reaching this target.

"The 10,000 figure also shows there are real grounds from people that the law must be re- examined to help stop people needlessly dying."

The BMA believes an "opt-out" system would better reflect the wishes of the individual. Currently many families say no to organ donation when, in fact, their relatives may have wished to donate.

Wales is preparing to introduce an "opt-out" system in 2015.

Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson said: "The Cabinet Secretary has previously made clear that while she is personally sympathetic to a move to an 'opt out' system, she is being guided on such a sensitive subject by expert opinion – which is that for the time being we need to make better progress on improving the current system by taking forward the recommendations from the UK Organ Donation Taskforce.

" I share those views but obviously welcome the good work being done by the Evening Times to raise awareness of this important subject and for encouraging more people to sign up to the register."

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