Family's delight as Dáithí's Law confirmed to take effect from June 1

Dáithí Mac Gabhann and father Máirtín pictured together in London last month as Dáithí's Law was passed at Westminster. The new law will now take effect from June 1. Pictuire by Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire
Paul Ainsworth

DÁITHÍ'S Law will take effect in the north on June 1 it has been confirmed, with all adults to be automatically considered organ donors unless they opt-out or are in an excluded group.

The Department of Health confirmed the early summer date for the Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) legislation, which was passed last month at Westminster after the north's MLAs were unable to pass it due to the DUP's ongoing Stormont boycott.

The legislation was added to the Executive Formation Bill brought to the House of Commons by NI Secretary Chris Heaton Harris.

The family of six-year-old Dáithí Mac Gabhann, who is from west Belfast and needs a heart transplant, have said they are "delighted" that a date is now set for the law to ensure those requiring organ donation have a greater chance of life-saving treatment.

His parents, Seph and Máirtín, have campaigned tirelessly to achieve the legislation change which they now hope will "save our Dáithí’s life".

From June 1, all adults will automatically be considered donors upon their death, except for those considered to lack the mental capacity to understand the legislation change.

Temporary residents and visitors to the north will also be excluded under the new law.

Specialist nursing staff will continue to speak to families about donation, as well as considerations around faith and beliefs, before any organ or tissue donation goes ahead after June 1.

It is estimated that between 10 and 15 people died each year while waiting for an organ transplant in the north, and while 90 percent of people surveyed here support organ donation, only half have signed the Organ Donation Register.

Welcoming the date for Daíthí's Law to take effect, the youngster's father, Máirtín Mac Gabhann, said: "It was a very proud day for our family and campaign to have Dáithí’s Law included as an amendment on the Executive Formation Bill.


Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle meets Dáithí in Westminster last month after the passing of new organ donation legislation. Picture: Lindsay Hoyle Twitter


"To hear Dáithí’s name mentioned again, and again in the House of Commons was something we will treasure forever. It was an incredibly difficult couple of weeks to get where we wanted to be, but we are just delighted to be here now and to see that Dáithí’s Law will be in effect by Spring 2023, as planned, is just the cherry on top."

He added of his son: "Dáithí continues to fight every day while he waits for the gift of a new heart, and we hope that this change in law helps make organ donation the norm in society, along with education and further awareness. We will never stop spreading the positive message of organ donation, as we hope that one day it will save our Dáithí’s life."

Peter May, the permanent secretary at Stormont's Department of Health, said: "The new law will strengthen the current legislative framework around organ donation and will increase the current rate of consent in the small number of cases in which it is clinically possible for organ donation to proceed after a person’s death.

"Doing so will increase the overall number of donors, and ultimately the number of lifesaving organs available for transplantation."

A spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland charity said: “Dáithí and his family have made history, and because of all their hard work, they will now help give a brighter future to all those waiting on the gift of life."