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Organ donations numbers fall

Former GAA player Joe Brolly (far right) following a round table policy meeting on organ donation at Stormont

ORGAN donations across the UK have fallen for the first time in over 10 years according to latest figures, despite high profile pro-donation campaigns here in the north by the likes of GAA pundit Joe Brolly and UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson.

New data from the NHS's Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2014/15 show a five per cent drop since 2013/14, with just 4,431 transplants carried out compared to 4,655 in the previous period.

Fewer people dying in circumstances where they could donate and no increase in the rate of people signing up to give consent for their organs to be used if they die are said to be reasons behind the drop.

Around 15 people die every year in the north while awaiting an organ transplant.

The latest donation figures come just days after the re-launch of the NHS organ donor register, which already includes one third of the north's population.

GAA pundit and former All-Ireland star Joe Brolly, whose kidney donation to clubmate Shane Finnegan failed in 2012, has been campaigning for increased organ donation here for the past three years.

Mr Brolly is calling for a change in the law throughout Ireland to an 'opt-out' system, whereby a person is assumed to consent to the donation of their organs at time of death unless they specifically state otherwise or consent is subsequently denied by family members.

While Wales is set to adopt an 'opt-out' system later this year, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and the Republic of Irleland employ 'opt-in' schemes, where a person must actively register their consent to organ donation.

'Altruistic' organ donations by living persons, such as the one made by the former Derry footballer, are currently outlawed in the Republic.

Mr Brolly's campaign has attracted the support of Dr Paul Glover, head of organ donation in Northern Ireland and Professor Jim Egan, Ireland's head of organ donation.

It has also been backed by UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson, whose son, Mark, experienced kidney failure shortly after birth and later received a life-saving transplant.

Ms Dobson chaired the Stormont All-Party Group on Organ Donation and, in 2012, submitted a Private Member's Bill calling for the implementation of an 'opt-out' system in the north.

However, the DUP's Alastair Ross subsequently put forward a Private Member's Bill on an 'opt-in' organ donation scheme adopted via the driving license system.

The East Antrim MLA said he disagreed with the proposals on "ethical grounds".

NI Health Minister Edwin Poots has said he will make a decision on changing organ donation rules next year.

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