New opt-out organ donation legislation comes into force in Scotland

  • Video report by Tim Backshall

A man from the Borders who had a two organ transplants thinks new legislation requiring adults to 'opt-out' of being a donor is 'positive' news.

Laws have now come into force, which mean people over 16 will automatically be considered as a possible donor after they die, unless they've specifically record a decision not to. 

It’s a big switch from the previous system, where people had to register to become a donor.

Aaron Gray, from Peebles, had a small bowel and liver transplant as a small child. He told ITV Border: "I think people should have the right and the freedom to choose what they want to do, whether they choose to opt out or not, I think that's something that people should have the freedom to do and be allowed to do." 

NHS Organ Donor Register card Credit: Philip Toscano/PA

His mother, Catriona, says it's been a 'long time coming.' She said: "I was part of a charity called "Live Life and Give Life" that campaigned for an opt out.

"I was actually at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood over a decade ago so, yes it's been a long time coming but I'm chuffed to bits that it's finally today." 

At any one time, an average of around 500 people are waiting for an organ transplant in Scotland – however only one in every 100 deaths results in vital body parts being made available.

The change has been hailed as a "landmark" moment by the British Medical Association.

Deputy chairwoman of its Scottish council Dr Sue Robertson said: "As a kidney doctor, organ donation is an issue that is never far from my thoughts. Over the course of my career I've seen just how vital organ donation is and how life-saving and life-enhancing it can be for the person who receives that transplant and for their loved ones.

"I hope that over time organ donation will become the norm, with everyone having discussions with their families or closest friends about their wishes, and a more positive attitude towards donation within society."

Credit: PA

She continued: "These discussions are crucial: the legislation is all about respecting each individual's wishes about donation, and families and loved ones have a vital role in ensuring that this happens by providing any information they have about the individual's most recent views.

"There has never been a better time than now to ensure that you have the conversation with those closest to you, while you can, so that they are prepared and are able to accurately report, and support, your wishes should the potential for organ donation arise."

Bushra Riaz, peer educator co‑ordinator for Kidney Research UK told ITV Border that it was important for people to have conversations with their family about their wishes.