Organ donation pilot

A new organ donation pilot programme is being launched in NHS Lothian, it was confirmed yesterday.

The pilot will ensure that people who cannot be resuscitated after suffering a cardiac arrest in the community and who have previously expressed a wish to donate their organs in the event of their death, will have that wish respected.

The pilot will run in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh where emergency medicine clinicians and the Scottish Ambulance Service practice the most advanced resuscitation techniques. As a result many more people who have suffered a cardiac arrest in the community are now making a good recovery.

Should the resuscitative measures prove unsuccessful, a decision will be made by two doctors that further treatment would no longer be in the best interests of the patient. End of life options (including organ donation) will then be discussed with the family.

Previously organ donation was not possible in these circumstances, even if the patient had made it clear that they wished to be an organ donor. 

The resuscitation process will continue to be run entirely by the emergency department based on their current policies and is totally separate from any consideration of organ donation.

Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson said:

“We welcome the fact that more people who experience a cardiac arrest at home or in the community are now surviving due to the introduction of modern resuscitation techniques by the emergency department clinicians and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

“However when all attempts at resuscitation in hospital have been unsuccessful it can be a source of comfort to the family to be able to respect the wishes of their loved ones who have made their organ donation wishes known by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register. This pilot programme is about doing this.”

Dr Matt Reed, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh said:

“We have an ongoing programme of improving the management of patients who have had a cardiac arrest in the community. The modern resuscitation techniques practiced by the Emergency Department in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the Scottish Ambulance Service in the South East of Scotland have seen survival rates for these patients improve dramatically and many more patients are now going on to make a good recovery. 

“Unfortunately however, there are some patients who do not survive despite every attempt to save them.  Many of those people will have expressed a wish to be an organ donor by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register in the expectation that their wishes be respected in the event of their death. This pilot will allow their wishes to be acted upon."

Dr Jean Turner, Executive Director, Scotland Patients Association said:

“Scotland Patients Association(SPA) welcomes this pilot which offers patients and their relatives the utmost assurance for the best outcomes from resuscitation with consideration and respect when organ donation may become an option for them.”

The pilot relates to adults aged 16-60 who have a witnessed cardiac arrest and who have expressed a wish to donate organs and/or tissues after their death. In its initial stages it will operate between the hours of 9-5 on weekdays.

Families will continue to be consulted on the proposed donation of their loved one’s organs.

Lothian is leading the way in Scotland in terms of population signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register (just under 50% of the population).

There are currently more than two million Scots on the NHS Organ Donor Register – over 41 per cent of the population which is the highest in the UK. The UK average is 31 per cent (October 2012).

In 2011/12 there were 346 transplants in Scotland. The majority of people on the transplant list are waiting on kidney transplants – 514 people.

NHS Blood and Transplant research found that 96 percent of people would take an organ if they needed one. Yet only 41 per cent of Scots have joined the NHS Organ Donor Register.