Thursday, 18 February 2016

Scotland needs an organ donor opt out scheme

I've had a letter published in the Largs paper this week about presumed consent with organ donation, lamenting the Scottish Parliament not voting it through last week, as recently done in Wales:

Dear Sir,

About 12 years ago I made a BBC television documentary in which I followed the transplant unit of the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh for several months, where I had the great privilege to not only get to know the staff and surgical teams at the unit, but also many of those waiting on the organ donor list. One of those I was fortunate to follow over a period of five months was a young 18 year old student from Linlithgow, who was in need of a functioning kidney. He had been on the list for so long because of the severe shortage of donor organs that in the end his own mother decided to donate one of her two healthy kidneys in a live transplant operation. I followed the family on their emotional journey throughout the process, including the transplant procedure itself, but tragedy soon followed its aftermath, when the young lad's immune system rejected his mother's donor organ. At the start of the programme I interviewed the young lad whilst he was hooked up to a dialysis machine, and heard his hopes for a free and normal life ahead of him; at the end of the film, following the failed organ's removal from his body, he was back on the same machine again, thoroughly dejected, with no idea where his salvation would come from the dialysis routine within which he was once again trapped.

Last Tuesday 9th February I watched with interest the Holyrood debate on the organ transplant presumed consent bill, created by Anne McTaggart, and supported passionately by many members across party lines, including our local MSP Kenneth Gibson. Whilst on this occasion the bill was rejected, although sympathetically received, it is a goal that I believe is still worth pursuing, and one which I hope our elected representatives will continue to push hard for. Having seen first hand just how difficult it is to secure suitable donor material for those waiting on the list, something certainly needs to be done.

In Wales, a system of presumed consent for the use of donor organs after death was put into operation from December last year, with a two year campaign there currently educating the public on how the system works, and how they can opt out should they choose to do so. The notion of presumed consent is one which it is hoped will significantly increase the numbers of potential donors available. Many of the lives that may be saved from this will be in Scotland, as the organs sourced from Wales will be available for use across the UK. I have heard sincere arguments from individuals against the notion of presumed consent, but it seems to me that many of these ignore the fact that consent still lies at the heart of the system, which can be freely removed as much as it can be given.

Until if and when such changes can be brought in, however, I would urge anyone who has not signed up to the current donor register to seriously consider doing so, via

Chris Paton

UPDATE 3 DEC 2016: One year on from the introduction of presumed consent in Wales, there have been some incredibly encouraging developments and tangible results as a result of the initiative, with the consent rate up from 49% to 59%, and an increase in the living donor rate of 20%. A summary of the findings is available at

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Damage to the Greeto Falls walk and beauty spot near Largs

In anticipation of a meeting happening on Tuesday 16th February at Largs Library, to discuss the new Halkshill Commercial Forestry Project happening in the hills behind Largs, my wife, youngest son and I all took a walk up to the Greeto Falls today. This aims to create a new forestry enterprise in the vicinity, with over a million trees and two hydro schemes to create power, although any community benefit to Largs has as yet to be defined.

As a part of this project we had heard that one of our favourite spots in behind the town had been damaged, and so wanted to see this for ourselves prior to the meeting, having only had a glimpse of a couple of pictures. I've documented what we found to better inform anyone who may wish to come to the meeting.

Having walked up Bellesdale Avenue, we noted the details of the construction company on the gate that covers the gate of the track leading up to the hillside walk to the Greeto Falls.

No sooner had we arrived at the top of this short, steep bit of track than we then came to our first surprise - the track we normally walk up is now blocked off, with signs telling pedestrians to divert to an alternative track up the hill.

A gate has been pulled down for folk to cross over, and there is then a smaller gate, which still has a thick wire strewn across it, which I narrowly missed, thanks to my wife warning me as I approached it. This is actually quite dangerous, and could easily catch someone across the neck if not paying attention.

We then walked up the hill partway, but there is no trackway identified for walkers to climb up. We quickly realised we had actually overshot the track we had seen on our way up the hill, so soon found our way back. This took us through another gateway, with yet again, two wires across the gap waiting to garrote somebody.

With the track suddenly veering off to the top of the hill - not where we wanted to go - we decided to cut back down onto the original track that we usually walk up to get to the Greeto Falls. The track is now gone - it has been dug up to create an access road for heavy plant vehicles.

With the weather as good as it was, there were several other folk taking a look for themselves. One of them had warned us that there was a 'Dalek' up ahead waiting to shout at us - we carried on and soon came across it...

I was easily able to understand its warnings, because it had the same friendly Northern Irish tones that I was used to hearing when growing up back in Norn Iron! After sounding a red alert klaxon straight out of a Star Trek film, it then informed me that the police and others were coming to get me...

It soon transpired that the police and others weren't in fact coming to get me, or anyone else that it was shouting at, so we carried on a bit further. The entire track to the Greeto Falls is now a dirt track, a very muddy one at present due to recent weather, and a large scar now following the hills towards our eventual goal.

And then we reached the Greeto Falls - only to have our hearts broken...


Thankfully they have yet to destroy the view in the other direction...

The meeting takes place at Largs Library on Tuesday at 7pm. This all happened over the winter when fewer folk were up the hills; how it happened, why it happened, what the community benefit will be, how it will be repaired and landscaped after the creation of the hydro scheme on Greeto Water, and indeed, if it will be repaired or landscaped, and when, is something I hope we'll hear some serious answers about on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Douglas Blair from the Community Council has indicated the following:

"...the drop in session regarding the proposed Commercial Forest Project will take place tomorrow beginning at 7pm in Largs Library led by Patricia Perman Environment Chair of Largs Community Council. It is one means by which we can discuss with you the pros and cons of the proposal as we understand it and at least we will be better prepared once the Public Consultaion and the EIA is issued. I know that there has been much conversation over the works at the hydro scheme but issues surrounding this will be discussed at our community council meeting under planning. Our monthly meeting takes place this Thursday at 7pm, Largs Library."

(With thanks to Douglas Blair)