Organ donation in Scotland will have an opt-out system by March of next year replacing the current individual "opt-in" registration to donate organs and tissue for transplants upon death. The Scottish parliament signed the new legislation in July 2018. It was only recently when Public Health minister Joe FitzPatrick announced that the law will come into effect on March 26 2021.

The Health Minister said, "The move to an opt-out system is part of a package of measures to continue to improve transplantation rates - and the lives of those for whom the wait continues. Only around 1% of people die in a way that makes organ donation possible, so every opportunity for donation is very precious."

In a report from the BBC, the changes to the law only affects individuals who die in-hospital. The 2019 Act amends the existing Human Tissue Act 2006 as it introduces a "deemed authorisation."

If an individual does not opt-out they will be deemed to be in favour of the donation and have given full authorisation to proceed with this. Individuals aged 16 years old and over and have not recorded their decision about donating will automatically be considered as possible donors when they die. The law also covers protection for the following :

  • adults without capacity to understand deemed authorisation and take the necessary action,
  • adults who have been residents in Scotland for less than 12 months before their death
  • children under 16 who will not be subject to deemed authorisation and will only be able to donate if they, or someone on their behalf, explicitly authorises it

Because organ and tissue donation is a personal informed decision where everyone has a choice, one may choose to register to become a donor or opt-out of it. The vital factor to this is making your decision known.

The new legislation was supposed to take effect this year but was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. The parliament's organ donation campaign was launched in the summer of 2019 as they took steps to advise people on the changes to be implemented as well as the choices people get to have in making an informed decision on the issue.

As Organ Donation Week came to a close on Sunday, government ministers are hopeful that the new law will encourage more people to make their decision on this matter known to their loved ones. The new law is aimed at improving and saving the lives of people waiting for a compatible donor. There are 2.6 million people listed in the NHS organ donor register, 48 % of which belong to the Scottish population.

For those who do not wish their organs to be donated for transplant, they may opt-out and register through the Organ Donation Scotland website.

Organ donation
Registered donors may be given priority on transplant waiting lists (Reuters)