Presumed consent plan over donation of organs
The Health Minister has said he will raise the possibility of introducing presumed consent in Northern Ireland with the Attorney General, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Edwin Poots said he remains committed to driving up the number of organs donated and that an opt-out system from donation would help save lives.
This means everyone would be regarded as a potential organ donor when they die unless they expressly request not to be.
The struggle to get enough organs to save everyone waiting for a transplant would be significantly eased if such a proposal were to be implemented.
In June, the Belfast Telegraph revealed Mr Poots had already raised the possibility of introducing presumed consent with Prime Minister David Cameron.
Speaking before he met athletes who represented Northern Ireland in the 2011 Westfield Health British Transplant Games at a reception at the weekend, Mr Poots said he intends to explore the matter further.
“I spoke to David Cameron and Andrew Lansley and they were both of the opinion that this is an ethical issue but it is something I am keen to introduce,” he said.
“I want to see whether we could introduce it here in Northern Ireland and break away from the rest of the UK.
“I need to speak to the Attorney General to see if it is possible.
“I also need to see whether I would get political support and then it would be a matter of putting it out to a full public consultation.”
Mr Poots said he welcomed debate on the matter.
“I am not suggesting that we remove organs from people when their families object.
“We would always ask for their permission but this would be an invaluable way of increasing the number of organs donated and therefore save lives.”
Mr Poots said it was a privilege to meet and congratulate the team of athletes that represented Northern Ireland at the Games which took place in Belfast in August.
The team of 52 adults and 15 children — all of whom are transplant recipients — amassed a haul of 50 gold, 35 silver and 21 bronze medals, and 11 trophies.
“The team’s sterling performance at the games is not only a credit to their determination and hard work, it also bears testimony to the effectiveness of organ transplantation and to the degree that the act of donating an organ can improve the quality of other people lives,” said Mr Poots.
More than half a million people in Northern Ireland have already pledged to save lives by signing up to the NHS Organ Donor Register. The success came after the Belfast Telegraph launched a campaign, Sign Up, Save a Life, to encourage as many people as possible to register for donation.
To sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, text SAVE to 84118, telephone 0300 1232 323 or go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk.