Northern Ireland news

Proposed organ donation law ‘will reduce number waiting for transplants'

Robin Swann introduced the second stage of the Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill at Stormont today, which would mean adults are automatically placed on the donor list unless they opt out
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Proposed new legislation on organ donation in Northern Ireland will reduce the number of people waiting for life-saving transplant operations, the health minister has told the Assembly.

Robin Swann introduced the second stage of the Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill at Stormont today, which would mean adults are automatically placed on the donor list unless they opt out.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the opt-out system is not already in place.

However, the Assembly was also warned that a DUP threat to collapse the powersharing institutions over the Northern Ireland Protocol could threaten the Bill’s progress.

Introducing the proposed legislation, Mr Swann said: “It has been long-awaited by all who are involved in the organ donation process. There have been many challenges and delays in bringing this Bill forward, however the strong public support for this Bill can leave no doubt that this is the right time to make a real difference to people’s lives in Northern Ireland.

“I acknowledge that there are a range of views within and outside the clinical community which must be fully respected and engaged with as part of the ongoing engagement.

“This Bill will mean that adults in Northern Ireland will be considered potential donors unless they choose to opt out or are excluded. Around 115 people in Northern Ireland are on the transplant waiting list and every year around 10-15 people in Northern Ireland die waiting on an organ transplant.

“This Bill will help to reduce the number of people waiting for life-saving transplants.”

Mr Swann added: “The main policy objective is to 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 life-saving organs considered for transplantation.

“Under the new law being an organ donor will still be your choice. Organ donation will remain a priceless gift.”

Sinn Féin health spokesman Colm Gildernew said the Bill had the potential “to save the lives of our families, our loved ones and our friends”.

He added: “It is regrettable there was a delay to bringing the Bill forward from the DUP and also I think it is hugely regrettable that the threat to this Assembly could impact on the outworking of this Bill and of bringing this Bill forward.”

During the debate, tributes were paid to those who have campaigned for the change in law, including the family of four-year-old Dáithí MacGabhann and former Ulster Unionist MLA Joanne Dobson.

Read more: Dáithí'a dad says failure to pass organ opt-out law would be a ‘travesty'

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