Call for 'opt out' organ donation law

Published Monday, 04 February 2013
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A call to change Northern Ireland's organ donation law to a system of 'presumed consent' has been launched by Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson.

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Currently, only organs may be taken from those who have signed the donor register or if their next of kin have given permission.

But due to a shortage of donors and long transplant waiting lists, there has been an ongoing debate in the UK on changing the system.

There are 300 people are currently waiting on transplants in the region.

The Upper Bann MLA is introducing a Private Members Bill at Stormont for a move to the 'Opt out' scheme, which would mean everyone is presumed to have given consent to be an organ donor after death unless they state otherwise in writing.

Mrs Dobson's son received an organ transplant and is a long-term advocate of signing the organ donor register.

"Mark has received the precious gift of life, but sadly for some this gift comes too late, or not at all," she said.

"As a mother I fought hard for my son, but as a politician I will fight just as hard for everyone else, because everyone deserves the chance of a new life. However, the fact remains that people needlessly die every year while enduring the wait for a suitable organ to be found.

"A simple change in law can make a massive difference in practice, for patients and for their families.

"The change I am proposing will help to save lives. Moving from the present 'Opt in' to a new 'Opt out' system takes organ donation to the next level."

A family friend of the assembly member knows firsthand the consequences of donor shortages.

At just 38, Justin Weir from Donaghcloney, Co Down, endures the four-hour, three-times-a-week routine of undergoing dialysis after a genetic disorder meant he had to have both kidneys removed.

"Eleven of my family members have been affected by kidney disease and this leaves a cloud of doubt hanging over our younger family members," he said.

"Knowing that more organs would be available would help and go some way to alleviate our worries for their future."

Mr Weir is in favour of the proposed change in legislation.

"They always have the option of opting out," he told UTV.

"This is the beauty about it and I believe it's a win-win situation, if they really feel strongly about it it's just a matter of opting out and obviously for us waiting on organ donation this will greatly increase our chances."

"We are delighted to have someone like Jo-Anne who has personal experience of this issue and can empathise with what we as patients and families go through every single day."

Mrs Dobson added: "This issue is much bigger than party politics and I am reaching out to politicians from all political parties to join with me to give the gift of new life.

"To change the law to make life better for dialysis patients, for worried families and for the future."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Joanne Elliott in Belfast wrote (437 days ago):
I am a mother of 3 Sons and unfortunately have endured the most horrifying 2 years of my life, 2 years ago in November 2010 We lost our gorgeous son Mark, (Sparky) to meningitis he was a week away from his 20th birthday. Our world was shattered and we as a family had to face the most painful and horrifying decision in our lives wether to donate our sons organs. After deep thought and self searching we said yes, the reason we said yes was because my son spoke of donating his organs he made it a goal in his life to encourage every1 to consider blood,marrow and organ donation he was so sucessful he managed to change the view of many of his friends and teachers. He asked as a child when George Best fell ill could he give him his liver and as a parent my heart skipped a beat I took a deep breath and explained why he could'nt. I knew then we had a loving giving child who would never see any1 in need. In my sons passing he has inspired hundreds of people to sign up and we are proud beyond belief that his organs saved the lives of 4 or 5 other people. We are now in touch with some saved and they have visited our home ans Sparkys grave. In all this goodness however I am appauled at these new proposals on op out organ donation, Every1 I have read who wants this or who is speaking of this has been recievers or in need and their families devastated when they do not receive organs , not once have I heard any talk of the horrifying decision that the families have to make on the bedside of there loved one, when you have been told no hope is possible for your child its hard to see hope for any other, the wrong decision could be detrimental to any family. How dare politicians think they can make this decision for any mother, father, brother, sister or child. Joanne Dobson MLA is right on one matter of this topic it is bigger than politics so stay well clear and let the professionals that have been carrying this job out for years keep doing what there doing. The organ donation donors are growing every year and continue to do so. Do not bully people into assumed hear say. Freedom of choice is still very much top of my scale even though I rally for organ donation I still would not like any mother at loss of her son/daughter baby left with this thought I didnt get to sign the opt out I didnt think this would happen to me. Just like the new law is advertising on how people never got around to signing up. How can you balance that with a mother never getting around to opting her teenage son out of the system. My opinion is extremly strong on this matter and I am devastated that politics think its there choice on changing this law. HOW DARE THEY.
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