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July 3, 2017

Scotland change to ‘opt-out’ organ donor system followed six-year Glasgow Evening Times campaign

By Zainab Mahmood

This week the Scottish government agreed to implement an opt-out system for organ donation following six years of campaigning from the Glasgow Evening Times.

The paper launched the Opt for Life campaign in October 2011 lobbying for the Scottish government to change organ donation laws to an opt-out system. This means people are assumed to be donors unless they specify otherwise.

The paper gathered 20,000 signatures through a public petition, appeared before a Scottish Parliament committee and obtained support from health professionals and MSPs.

Senior reporter Caroline Wilson, who led the paper’s Opt for Life coverage, said: “We weren’t simply raising awareness about organ donation or attempting to drive up numbers on the donor register, we were asking the government to consider a new system of organ donation and one that a great many people had never heard of.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy campaign and it wasn’t. Being grilled by MSPs at the Public Petitions Committee and was one of the most daunting things I’ve ever been asked to do.

“We faced opposition, including from those medical profession, but we had to challenge their judgment. However, the one constant was the level of public support, particularly those who had experienced the agony of waiting for a transplant.”

Editor Graham Shields said: “The Evening Times is proud to be a champion for the people of Glasgow, and we have campaigned on their behalf throughout our history.

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“The Opt for Life campaign has been a huge undertaking and it promised to improve the lives of thousands of people across the whole of Scotland. I am proud of our staff and readers for sticking with this important task and finally delivering success.”

Former Glasgow MSP Anne McTaggart brought the bill forward in the last parliament.

She congratulated the Evening Times: “I cannot thank the Opt for Life Evening Times campaign enough. They were the organisers to initiate the community awareness which in turn raised greater awareness for us all.”

The Daily Mirror has launched a similar campaign looking to get the ‘opt-out’ system adopted across the UK.

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