It was a grubby little vote in the Scottish Parliament that blocked progress of the organ donation bill this week. Put another way, it means MSPs voted to guarantee Scots will die (more than one a week) of renal failure while they look the other way. People will pay with their lives while our legislators go away to ‘ponder the details.’
You wonder what world of magic forests and silver unicorns our elected elite inhabits. It must be rarified air up there on Mount Olympus with a wee desk in the chamber, an office with a window thinking-space, a secretary and expenses. One that allows you to ignore the pleas of those dependent for their life on your decision – many of whom spend hours several days a week on dialysis.
Not that MSPs are actually opposed to the idea of inclusive organ donation with opt-out. Dearie me, no. They very much agree with that part – the bit that saves lives. It’s just the detail they’re not sure about. If you don’t get the detail right, some people might object and there’ll be a row and accusations will fly. Very untidy. Sure, lives might be saved and hope given but this legislating is tricky stuff and not to be treated lightly. You have to wear a very stern face when you consider the implications of the details. We can’t have voters turning up with ideas for new laws that didn’t come from the gilded cage of creation. In this case, it was actually dreamt up by…by…a journalist. And she was working hand in glove with a Labour MSP Anne McTaggart who would claim the credit!
Saving lives is all very well but when there are reputations at stake…
I was reminded of the fiasco over euthanasia when perfectly workable solutions to end distress never quite satisfied the nit-pickers. They too were desperately keen to end unnecessary suffering – they just couldn’t see any practical way of doing it. Holyrood is a parliament that hasn’t got the guts to save life and hasn’t the guts to end it either.
Bring us a doctors’ contract, a bypass or a fiscal framework and we hoist the gleaming sword of justice. Bring us a moral issue and we skulk away in silence.
I had a look at the attempts to bring organ opt-out into law. Evidence was first taken in 2012. The committee decided to await an imminent report on organ donation. Then they waited for a second report on donation. They heard from Welsh Assembly staff (where they’ve managed to implement it despite those troublesome details). They had another debate in 2014 and referred it to another committee. They heard a petition from the Evening Times in 2015 and last month closed that down in order to debate it this week. Stutter and obfuscation at every stage. There’s always a reason not to act, even the knowledge that every week another Scot paying for Holyrood dies for want of a kidney.
It isn’t just Wales that’s overcome the troublesome details Holyrood finds insurmountable. All over Europe the crashing logic of assuming all organs to be available to save the lives of others has been implemented to enormous success. Even here the public say most of them would allow their organs to be used but they just don’t get round to registering. What the Hell are our brave MSPs afraid of?
When Scotland last attacked this issue we wanted to get donor rates up by a half. The health minister said: ‘This will be achieved without changing existing law on organ donation. However, in addition to this, I think it’s really important that we consider seriously every potential way of increasing donation rates.’ What was Nicola Sturgeon thinking? If the evidence is that legislation is a way of increasing numbers, why not legislate?
Even the doctors back this one, unlike euthanasia. Maybe it’s that wimpish reluctance to play God that afflicts MSPs when they think the churches might go tsk tsk. But this is a straightforward case of political will. The precedent is set across Europe so there’s nothing to fear from awkward details. It requires leadership. Like booze pricing and smoking bans it needs the boldness that comes from belief and a democratic mandate. There is no down side.
The bill should have been voted through and later amendments made. It fell by three votes because enough SNP members voted against. Now MSPs will wait for yet another report on organ donation and conduct…wait for it…a consultation. This is a failure of parliament and a failure of the SNP government…one that dozens of Scots will pay for with their life.by