GAA football hero Joe Brolly, who won the praise of thousands of people all over Ireland after he donated a kidney to a man he barely knew, is aiming for a new goal — to save lives by increasing the number of organ donors here through a groundbreaking Good Samaritans Act.
Brolly, a barrister, broadcaster and writer, has already met the First and Deputy First Ministers to urge them to introduce the new legislation which would mean that people here would have to opt out of organ donation rather than opt in, as is currently the case.
Under the opt-out scheme in operation in Spain, which also could soon be introduced in Wales, a person's consent to organ and tissue donation would be assumed unless they had objected during their lifetime.
Brolly (43), who has five children, and father-of-three Shane Finnegan (40) — to whom he gave his kidney last October — were left devastated after the PR executive's body rejected the organ in an unexpected development which baffled surgeons.
Brolly who won the All-Ireland Championship with Derry in 1993 used his time during his recuperation after the transplant to draw up a dossier outlining why the opt-out scheme is successful in countries like Spain in attracting larger number of donors than in places where patients opt in.
The fitness fanatic, who lives in south Belfast, is advocating a system adopted in countries like Austria whereby organ donation is compulsory except in exceptional circumstances.
Brolly is planning to meet church leaders and is to hold talks with representatives of the British Medical Association.
He will meet Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson whose son underwent a successful kidney transplant several years ago.
The UUP and the SDLP have indicated they may table private members bills in support of opt-out legislation.
But Mr Brolly wants Executive action. “Private members bills can take a long time but I would like to see the new initiative coming from the Executive with all-party support. If there is politicking, we could run into trouble. This is something which should belong to all parties and no parties,” he said.
Story so far
Ex-Derry GAA player Joe Brolly donated a kidney to fellow coach Shane Finnegan during an operation at Guys Hospital in London on October 3. But complications developed and the kidney was removed. Mr Finnegan had been waiting for a transplant for six years. Mr Brolly and Mr Finnegan both coach an under-10 GAA side in Belfast.