Northern Ireland news

Doctors urge `opt-out' organ donation system for north

Northern Ireland is the only UK region that has not made steps towards an opt-out organ donation system

DOCTORS are urging a change to a `soft opt-out' system for organ donation in the north.

The BMA Northern is making its renewed call as Organ Donation Week 2018 begins across Britain and Northern Ireland today.

All other UK regions have either moved to an opt-out system or have made commitments to legislate towards one.

Changes cannot be made in the north without an executive in place, however.

At present, Northern Ireland operates an ‘opt-in' system where a person must register their consent to donate their organs in the event of their death.

Under an opt-out system there would be a presumption in favour of consent for donation unless a person had registered an objection in advance If an objection had not been registered, family members would still be given the opportunity to confirm whether the individual had any unregistered objection, as an extra safeguard, before any procedures went ahead.

BMA Northern Ireland Council chairman, Dr John D Woods said the lack of legislative movement towards a soft opt-out organ donation system was yet another regretful consequence of not having a functioning assembly.

"Research has shown that although almost everyone would accept an organ if they needed one, registrations for organ donation account for just 42 per cent of the population," he said.

"We welcomed the amendment made to the Health Miscellaneous Bill in 2016 to include a ‘duty to promote and annually report on transplantation' and we agree that ongoing organ donation awareness campaigns are crucial, but in our opinion, on their own, they do not go far enough.

"Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK which has not committed to an opt-out system. Given that, at present, around 200 people here are on the transplant waiting list and last year 14 people died waiting for an organ, it's important that our elected representatives do what they can to work towards introducing a soft opt-out system here."

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