Scottish Government
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Human organ donation

Scotland must aim to nearly double its number of organ donors over the next five years, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday.

She set the new goal following publication of the UK-wide Organ Donation Taskforce's second report recommending no move to an opt out system. There is also to be a new awareness-raising campaign aimed at increasing the number of Scots on the Organ Donor Register.

The UK Taskforce has made a number of key recommendations:

  • That opt out systems should be reviewed in five years' time in the light of progress with implementation of the recommendations in the Taskforce's first report
  • Additional resources should be spent on promoting the Organ Donor Register and that health departments across the UK should agree increases in numbers on the Register
  • A strategy should be developed for raising awareness and addressing misunderstandings about organ donation
  • That when a patient dies in appropriate circumstances, all families should be given the opportunity to have a discussion with a trained donor co-ordinator

Ms Sturgeon, said:

"While I remain personally sympathetic to a move to an opt out system, I have always said I will be guided by expert opinion.

"I therefore welcome this very thorough and important piece of work, which gives us some much-needed clarity on the advantages and pitfalls of moving to an opt out system for organ donation at this time.

"However, the issue of opt out is not completely off the agenda. It will reamin under review and will be formally reconsidered, in line with the Taskforce's recommendation, in five years' time.

"It is clear that a majority of people in Scotland would want their organs to help save somebody else's life. The challenge is to translate that willingness into a significant rise in registered donors.

"I can assure everyone that NHS Scotland will rise to this challenge, in recognition of the paramount importance we place on this issue.

"We will provide the necessary extra resources in Scotland to meet the new challenge of increasing organ donation rates across the UK as a whole from their present level of 13 donors per million population to 24 donors per million population by 2013.

"Recent campaigns, such as the 'Kill Jill' advertising drive, have shown the way, but we will have to be even more innovative if we are to raise the number of organ donors in Scotland to nearly twice current levels.

"So I have asked that NHS Scotland produces new awareness-raising material to inform people about the existing legislation that already provides that if they sign up to the Organ Donor Register, their authorisation should be honoured after their death.

"This is an extremely sensitive issue. There has been general recognition for some time now, across all of the UK national health services, that organ donation rates must be increased if we are to avoid the tragic and deplorable situation where people are dying because of a shortage of donors.

"Nevertheless simply raising donation rates cannot be the only consideration. We must never forget that behind bald statistics there are real people and families having to make choices in often very difficult circumstances."

The Taskforce's first report, published in January 2008, made 14 recommendations which NHS Scotland is currently working towards. Progress so far includes:

  • Each of the 11 mainland NHS Boards is now actively discussing the establishment of a donation committee
  • Funding is available to appoint a Clinical Donation Champion in the main Scottish hospitals, starting with those in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow which have the largest Intensive Care Units
  • A reference to discussion of donation, where appropriate as part of all end-of-life care, has been included in the Scottish Government's national strategy for palliative and end of life care, published in October
  • Six new donor transplant co-ordinators are being recruited for Scotland by March 2009
  • The impact of the two 'Kill Jill' advertising campaigns run in March and July of this year are being analysed to determine what lessons can be learned to make future campaigns even more effective
  • a revision of the Organ Donation Teaching Resource Pack for use in secondary schools is being undertaken

2. Under the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006, people from the age of 12 upwards can authorise the donation of their organs after death, and expect to have those wishes honoured. The legislation specifically provides that relatives cannot legally overrule those wishes. Currently, 30 per cent of the Scottish population (more than 1.5 million people) are already on the Organ Donor Register.

3. The donation rate per million population (pmp) represents the actual number of people whose organs are retrieved for transplant and is separate to the total number of people on the Organ Donor Register.

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