Fife councillor’s life saving kidney transplant sparks appeal backing

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A Fife councillor who underwent a life-saving transplant has won the backing of colleagues in support a new organ donation bill.

Craig Walker urged Fife Council to show its support for the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill which would see everyone automatically sign up to become an organ donor – unless they specifically opt-out.

He recently underwent a kidney transplant.

Cllr Walker, (SNP, Glenrothes West and Kinglassie) urged the local authority to give its full backing.

He said: “There is encouraging evidence that, as part of a package of measures, an opt-out system can lead to increases in organ donation and transplantation.”

He told colleagues hoe he was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder in 2006 called IgA Nephropathy which effectively saw his own body attack his kidneys.

Cllr Walker said: “For a number of years the condition was effectively managed, although there is currently no cure. However, there was a sharp decline in my kidney function over the course of last summer, to the extent that it was clear I needed dialysis and eventually a kidney transplant.

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“I started dialysis in September, and began the process of being assessed for the suitability of a transplant.

“I’m so lucky compared to many others who are waiting on an organ transplant. My entire family and my partner volunteered to be a live donor. Fortunately my sister Colette was a match.

“Two weeks ago, I had a successful kidney transplant and I stand here today, well on the road to recovery.

“My experience was perfect from start to kidney transplant thanks to the amazing gift my sister gave me. To them, although it’s utterly inadequate, I can only say thank you so much.”

He said his experience was the exception rather than the rule.

“That’s why I believe this change in legislation will begin to bridge the gap between lucky patients like me, who only waited seven months for a transplant, to those who wait an average of two years to get that all important call,” he added.

Conservatives opposed the motion, saying there needed to be an individual consent given before organ donation could happen.

Councillor David J Ross said: “I believe that it’s not the role of the state to assume that people are giving permission to donate their organs. It is the right, and should be the right, of the individual to make the decision that best suits them. I strongly believe that an opt-out system is the wrong way to go.”

Councillor David Barratt noted that it was only a small portion of people who were eligible to donate organs when dying, and added: “Every day someone in the UK dies waiting on a transplant. In the right scenario, a single person can help save lives. And if you’re not an organ donor, you are taking these people with you.”

Councillor Richard Watt said he would be “devastated” to find “that organ I received was not freely given”. He added: “I don’t think it’s the place of this council to make claim on the organs of Scottish citizens.”

All parties were given a free vote, and cross-party support was given to each argument.

Councillors voted to support the bill 53 to nine.