BMA press releases archive

Give your heart this Valentine's Day

(issued by BMA Scotland Tuesday 14 Feb 2012)
    This Valentine’s Day [Tuesday, 14 February 2012], doctors are urging Scots to sign up to the Organ Donor Register and to discuss their wishes with those closest to them. What better way to give your heart this Valentine’s Day?

    The call comes as the BMA published a new report on organ donation, Building on Progress: Where next for organ donation policy in the UK?(1), to encourage health professionals, policy-makers and the public to consider what more can and should be done to improve organ donation rates in the UK.

    In Scotland, 778 people are on the transplant waiting list; sadly, some of them will die while they are waiting whilst others will have died without even reaching the waiting list. Meanwhile, repeated studies show that up to 90% of the population supports organ donation, yet less than a third have signed up to the organ donor register.

    The BMA has long advocated for a shift to a ‘soft’ opt-out system (2), which, if properly implemented with adequate resources and staff, and backed up by a high profile publicity campaign, could save or transform thousands of lives.

    Dr Sue Robertson, a renal physician and member of the BMA’s Scottish Council, said:

    “Organ transplantation is an area that has seen amazing medical achievements but has not yet reached its full life-saving and life-transforming potential. As doctors it is difficult to see our patients dying and suffering when their lives could be saved or dramatically improved by a transplant.

    “It is important that an individual’s views on organ donation are taken into account following their death. A ‘soft’ opt-out system would better reflect the views of the Scottish people. All the time we waste now means that more lives will be lost. Now is the time for a serious debate about moving to opt-out.”

    Gill Hollis, a lung transplant recipient, said:

    “I wouldn’t be here today without my transplant, so I am incredibly grateful to my donor family; their generosity saved my life. But I was one of the lucky ones - I received my transplant in time. I’ve also supported people through the waiting process who did not receive an organ in time, and that’s been heartbreaking. So you can see why I feel passionately about initiatives to address the organ shortage. An opt-out system would mean that more people could have their lives saved and transformed.

    “In the meantime, however, it is vital that people talk to their loved ones about their wishes and discuss openly their views on organ donation so that, if the time comes, they can make a decision which reflects the individual’s wishes.”


    Notes to editors

    1 The “Building on Progress: Where next for organ donation policy in the UK?” report has been produced by the BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee as part of its ongoing work on organ transplantation. It acknowledges that since the Organ Donation Taskforce report was published four years ago there have been major changes and significant improvements to the organ donation system in the UK. However, the report highlights that reaching the 50% target by 2013 will be a significant challenge and, even if it is achieved, people waiting for an organ will still die needlessly. Full copy of the BMA’s report, Building on Progress: Where next for organ donation policy in the UK? is available at:

    2 *A ‘soft’ opt out system: The BMA supports the introduction of a ‘soft’ opt out system in which relatives’ views are also taken into account. Instead of being asked to consent to donation, they would be informed that their relative had not opted out of donation and unless they object – either because they are aware of an unregistered objection by the individual or because it would cause major distress to close relatives – the donation would proceed. Donation would therefore become the default position.

    For further information please contact:
    BMA Scotland Public Affairs Office (Telephone: 0131 247 3050)
    14 Queen Street
    EH2 1LL
    Evenings and Weekends:
    07768 005 850