Doctors leaders have applauded the Scottish Parliament for backing a change in the law around organ donation, saying it will ‘save precious lives’.

MSPs approved the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday, paving the way for a move to a system whereby eligible adults are automatically added to the organ donor register unless they specifically opt out.

Sue Robertson, a renal physician in Dumfries and long-standing member of BMA Scottish council, wholeheartedly welcomed the vote.

"The BMA has been calling for an opt-out model of organ donation for 20 years and it is great to see that we are now closer to that position,’ she said.

"At the end of March 2019 there were 581 people in Scotland waiting for life-saving transplants – with the introduction of this new law I am hopeful that more people than ever before will receive the organs they so desperately need.

"I applaud the Scottish Government – and all the MSPs who voted in the bill’s favour – for its commitment to implementing an opt-out model in Scotland.’

Organ and tissue donation can be a life-changing gift

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said the Scottish Government would continue to work with stakeholders in the NHS to ensure that the legislation is put into practice effectively.

"Organ and tissue donation can be a life-changing gift," he said. "Evidence shows that opt-out systems can make a difference as part of a wider package of measures and this bill provides further opportunities to save and improve lives."

A public awareness campaign setting out the choices that people have and how the system will work will be held later this year.

Dr Roberston added that the new law would help people to think about and share their wishes around becoming organ donors. "I also believe that over time organ donation will become the norm, with more people having discussions with their families about their wishes and a more positive attitude towards donation within society,’ she said.

The move will bring Scotland in line with Wales, which introduced a soft opt-out system around organ donation in 2015. A similar change is expected to take place in England from next year. Under a ‘soft’ system, families still have a say in whether donation should happen but the presumption is that the person is a willing donor unless they have opted out.