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6 February 2015, 05:00
TV star Lorraine Kelly has called on the First Minister to "take a different approach'' to organ donation and back proposals to bring in an opt-out system.
The television presenter has given her backing to a Bill from Labour MSP Anne McTaggart, to change the current "opt in'' system under which people sign up to the NHS organ donor register.
Under the proposed Organ and Tissue Donation (Scotland) Bill, those who did not wish to donate their organs after death would have make their wishes known in advance.
Families would still be consulted in cases where people had not made their views known.
Ms Kelly revealed her support as the Bill was formally launched in the Scottish Parliament.
She said: "Being an organ donor is a unique opportunity for people to leave behind an amazing gift. I've read some of the incredible stories of people who have been lucky enough to receive a successful transplant.
"The heart-breaking reality however is that 38 people died in Scotland in 2013/14 whilst waiting for a transplant. We need to stop this needless loss of life and that's why I'm proud to be able to support Anne's Bill.''
Ms Kelly stated: "I'm delighted to be able to offer my support for Anne's proposals. I believe introducing a 'soft opt-out' system is important because despite their being widespread support for organ donation, less than half of Scotland's population is registered on the NHS organ donation register. With three people dying every day across the UK waiting for a transplant, it's clear to me that we need to take a different approach.
"In the past, I've encouraged people to speak to their families about organ donation and I'm glad that I've had that discussion with my own loved ones. I hope that the introduction of a 'soft opt-out' system will encourage more people to make the decisions about donation during their lifetime and have this important conversation with family and friends.''
Ms McTaggart said a switch to a "soft opt out'' system could increase the number of organs available for transplant and ultimately save lives.
The MSP added she was "delighted'' to have Ms Kelly's support, saying: "She has done some fantastic work promoting organ donation in the past and I know her support is greatly appreciated by all those people who have received transplants and those who are on the waiting list.''
She continued: "I'm now looking forward to introducing my Bill to Parliament and will relish the opportunity to put forward the case for positive change. With three people dying every day across the UK whilst waiting for a transplant it's clear that we need to change the system of organ donation here in Scotland.
"Scotland has the highest proportion of registered organ donors in the UK, with 41% of the population registered in 2013-14. However, we have the second lowest donation rates across the four nations with only 20.3 donations per million people compared to 20.6 people per million in the rest of the UK.
"With a switch to soft opt-out we could help tackle this shortage of available organs and ultimately save lives.''
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "This Government is committed to continuing to increase donation and transplantation rates in Scotland and continue the success that the donation and transplantation plan for Scotland 2013-2020 is already delivering.
"Thanks to these efforts, the numbers of donors in Scotland have increased significantly and the number of people waiting for a transplant has fallen by 25% in the last seven years.
"Whilst we welcome any debate in relation to the important issues of organ donation and transplant, we do need to examine the evaluation of the impact of opt-out on organ donation on Wales before making a decision on any changes within Scotland.
"This is because there is not, as yet, a consensus amongst experts as to whether opt-out will make a significant difference, and the international evidence is not clear.''