From today, people in Scotland will be automatically enrolled as an organ donor when they die unless they actively choose to opt out via the Organ Donation Scotland website.

The legislation - Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019 — states where an adult does not express that they do not wish to be a donor, they will be regarded to have authorised donation for the purposes of transplantation.

The rules are subject to various safeguards, and certain groups of people are protected under the legislation: adults who lack capacity to understand, adults who have lived in Scotland for less than 12 months before their death, and anyone under the age of 16-years-old.

However, it is still good practice to have a conversation with family and friends to discuss their views on organ donation to make sure those wishes are honoured, particularly if someone does fall into the protected group. It is worth noting that the opt-out system only applies to the donation of commonly transplanted parts of the body such as kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, and tendons.

In recent times, the waiting list for a transplant is at an unmanageable level, and consequently, every year up to 50 people will die in Scotland in need of a transplant, and more than 500 people are waiting for a transplant at any time.

Scotland has joined England and Wales in introducing the ‘opt-out’ system, and the introduction will undoubtedly assist individuals who have had the intention of registering for organ donation, but who have never got round to it for whatever reason that may be. Organ Donation Scotland have reported that 77% of people in Scotland support organ donation, but the figures don’t represent the number of people registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

The British Heart Foundation has reported that of the top 10 countries in terms of donation rates, nine of them operate an opt-out system, so it's not unreasonable to expect that opting-in to the ‘opt-out’ system will increase the number of transplants, and save more lives in Scotland.