Northern Ireland news

Father of west Belfast toddler joins calls for change in the law on organ donation

Little Dáith Mac Gabhan with his parents Seph and Máirtín. Picture by Mal McCann

THE father of a west Belfast toddler has joined calls for a change in the law on organ donation, which he said would "help families like us".

Máirtín Mac Gabhann, whose son Dáithi (2) has been on the waiting list for a new heart for more than a year, said he believes everyone should automatically be considered a donor unless they opted out.

He was speaking to mark Organ Donation Week which began today.

The soft opt-out system for organ donation is advocated by campaigners, including the British Heart Foundation NI (BHF NI) which has revealed almost seven out of 10 people in the north are in favour of change in the law on organ donation.

The family was involved in lighting up Black Mountain in Belfast for Organ Donation Week

The charity said the measure would help save lives.

It conducted the poll which showed 69 per cent of people in Northern Ireland strongly support or tend to support replacing the current opt-in organ donation system with a soft opt-out system.

It also said 68 per cent would want any of their organs to be donated after their death.

BHF NI said its poll indicated a need for legislative change to help deliver an increase in available organs for donation, better reflect the views of the majority of the population and help shift social norms towards donation and away from refusal.

As of June 30 2019, there were 133 people waiting for an organ transplant in Northern Ireland, with 16 of them waiting on a new heart.

Head of BHF NI, Fearghal McKinney, said: "We are being left behind as the only part of the UK and Ireland that has not made progress on this change in organ donation.

"One person's decision to donate their organs is a gift that can save and improve the lives of up to nine other people.

"We believe a change in the legislation, along with a strengthened health system and a public information campaign, will lead to more people receiving the gift of a donated organ."

Dáithí's family have been campaigning for people to become organ donors and this week are using a series events to raise awareness of the organ donor register.

They will attend Saturday's Cliftonville v Linfield match where Dáithí will walk onto the pitch at half-time to encourage fans to sign the register and they have organised a 10k run through west Belfast on Sunday.

They were also involved in lighting up Black Mountain in Belfast for Organ Donation Week.

"Dáithí was born with a congenital heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome which means he was essentially born with half a working heart," said Mr Mac Gabhann.

"He has had numerous heart surgeries since he was born and now his only chance is a heart transplant.

"It is obviously very stressful day-to-day knowing but we’ve put our heart and soul into raising awareness of organ donation and we’ve been overwhelmed by the support of our local community.

"We support the introduction of a soft opt-out system because we believe it will help increase the number of donors and ultimately help families like us.

"We also want everyone to have the conversation with their loved ones this Organ Donation Week."

"Tell your family your wishes on organ donation because you are giving a chance to save the life of children like Dáithí­ and the others waiting for that gift of life."

Little Dáithí Mac Gabhann. Picture by Mal McCann

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