Published Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Dr Rooney, Minister Poots with Steve Carter and recipient Janet Coleman. (© UTV)
At present, there are around 200 people on the transplant waiting list.
Only 31% of the region's population are on the organ donor register, despite public support for organ donation being high.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) launched its 'Speak up and save a life' organ donation campaign on Wednesday, to raise awareness on the issue.
Dr Eddie Rooney is Chief Executive of the PHA and Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee for Organ Donation and Transplantation.
"Organ donation really is the gift of life," he said. "The generosity of donors and their families enhances or saves the lives of recipients across Northern Ireland.
"We want to encourage people to talk about organ donation with family and close friends so they are aware of their wishes, to increase awareness of the organ donor register and how to sign up, and to increase the number of people in Northern Ireland on the organ donor register."
He said that despite many advances and awareness-raising activities by various organisations on the issue of organ donation in recent years, not enough people are aware of the organ donor register.
Dr Rooney said that as a result the number of people who have signed it is quite low.
There is also too high a level of misunderstanding about organ donation itself, he added, with only 38 percent have discussed their wishes with their loved ones.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said that last year he asked the PHA to establish public attitudes towards organ donation, including whether to introduce a statutory opt-out amongst other options.
"I have given careful consideration to the findings in the Public Health Agency's report and consider increased public awareness, education on the key issues and the further development of transplantation services through UK-wide action appropriate at this time.
"I would like to thank the PHA for taking forward the public information campaign to raise awareness."
Mr Poots went on to say that he would re-test public opinion again following the campaign.
"I appeal to all those of varying opinion on this very emotive issue to support the Public Health Agency in taking this information campaign forward; this is a vitally important issue which will affect many people's lives and it is imperative that we get it right.
"In the meantime may I once again urge everyone to consider signing the organ donation register and having made such a decision, to discuss their wishes with their families and loved ones."
© UTV News