New legislation requiring adults to opt-out of being an organ donor has come into force in Scotland.
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.
“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.”
A national campaign by Organ Donation Scotland is highlighting the change.
It said while everyone has the choice to opt-out of donating, people aged 16 and over who have not recorded a decision will be considered a possible donor if they die in circumstances in which they could donate.
A nurse whose husband donated after he died has highlighted the importance of having conversations around organ donation with family members.
Elaine Kennedy, 45, from Uddingston in South Lanarkshire, lost her husband David, 43, in March 2019 after an accident at work.
She said that a brief conversation about donation when renewing her driving licence had made it easier to make the decision to donate.
Mrs Kennedy said: “I’ve been involved in organ donation from a professional side, and when I realised that it really wasn’t looking good for David, I told the doctor that he was a registered organ donor and this is what we should look at if it comes to that.
“David was able to donate both his kidneys, his pancreas and his liver. It’s bittersweet – you never want to find yourself in that position, but the fact that there’s three recipients and families out there who may have been given a quality of life they didn’t have before has helped in our devastation.”
There are around 500 people waiting for an organ transplant at any one time, however only about 1% of people die in a way that makes organ donation possible.
Mrs Kennedy added: “If I didn’t know what he wanted, it would’ve made it harder. Because of that conversation, myself and David’s family were able to honour his decision.
“He was such a selfless and generous person in life, he wanted to make everyone happy and this was the last thing he could do for someone else.”