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BBC News – Organ donation: Public to be consulted on proposed law change

By Marie-Louise Connolly

BBC Northern Ireland health correspondent

The public is to be asked what it thinks about a bid to change the law on organ donation in Northern Ireland.

The change would require people to opt out of donation rather than opt in.

The legislation aims to increase the number of people who make their organs available for transplant.

Currently people commit by signing a donor card but this system means that two out of three people are not registered.

The consultation process will pave the way for a private member’s bill that is due to be introduced shortly by Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, from the Ulster Unionist party.

“The sad fact is that supply of available organs does not meet demand,” she said.

“That’s why I believe a change in the law is needed to increase supply and save lives.”

Key role

Under the proposed change, people would have to opt out of donation rather than opt in

More than 200 people are currently waiting in Northern Ireland for a transplant. Among them is Neil Robinson who is 24.

He has been waiting for a kidney transplant for more than 20 years. A transplant operation when he was six failed.

“This must happen. Most people want to save lives but perhaps don’t have the donor card,” he said.

“This new system makes it automatic, it’s so easy. But it also means that those people who don’t want to donate don’t have to and can opt out.”

The change in legislation would mean that everyone would automatically be opted in and those who do not wish to donate their organs would sign off the register.

However, it proposes to make little change to the current key role played by the family in the final decision in relation to donation of organs.

A family would still be consulted for additional medical information and asked about any unregistered objection to donation.

The bill, which can succeed without departmental support, already has the backing from all six transplant charities.

It is hoped members will vote on the proposed legislation before the end of the year.

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