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New organ donor law 'will save lives in 2015'

By Rebecca Black

Lives could be lost this year if a new Bill aimed at making it easier for people to donate their organs after death is not passed, it has been claimed.

The potentially ground-breaking change to the law has been proposed by Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson.

She is proposing that instead of having to "opt-in" to being on the donor list, there should be what she has termed a "soft opt-out" approach.

Mrs Dobson originally tabled her Private Member's Bill in December 2012, and has revealed that she expects it to reach the floor of the Assembly by the spring.

This week brave Armagh mother Angela Mone spoke on the anniversary of her six-year-old son Jerome's death about how the knowledge he helped four people has aided her with her grief.

Little Jerome died following a road accident in December 2007. His heart saved the life of a baby girl, and also helped an eight-year-old boy and two men in their 30s.

Ms Mone said she was thrilled that her little boy had been able to help so many people.

"I really couldn't comprehend how or why a child could be given to you and taken away so suddenly, but by donating his organs I could see some sense in it," she said.

"I urge anyone reading this to sign the Organ Donor Register but most importantly, talk to your nearest and dearest, especially children."

Mrs Dobson said it was stories such as the Mone family's which are "so important to let people know about the gift that organ donation is, and that fact that through something as tragic as a child dying, lives can actually be saved".

The UUP MLA added that very few people were donating.

"It's a sad truth that not many people are making this decision like this family did all these years ago," she said.

"It can comfort the family to know that the death of their loved one has not been in vain."

Mrs Dobson is very familiar with the painful wait on transplant lists.

Her youngest son Mark was diagnosed with kidney failure when he was just five weeks' old. He was placed on the transplant list at 13 and later received an organ.

She has compaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of organ donation, and in December 2012 tabled her Private Member's Bill at the Assembly to change the existing organ donation laws here.

The simple change in the law that she is proposing means that people are automatically on the list unless they chose to opt out.

However, Mrs Dobson explained that family consent was at the heart of the proposed new law. "If your family decide they don't want to, their decision would not be overruled."

The Bill is currently being drafted into legal language.

"We are hoping it will be on the floor of the Assembly by the spring," she said.

"The human stories are the real reason behind human donation. Families look back with pride at their decision to donate.

"It's something that I am very very passionate about, everywhere I go people ask me about it. It has gripped the public because there is nothing more noble than saving someone's life. This Bill will ultimately save many, many lives and that is what is so important to me."

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