Belfast Telegraph

Call over 'opt out' donation system

A mother whose daughter died after contracting swine flu said countless lives could be saved if Northern Ireland adopted an "opt out" organ donation system.

Lorraine Ritchie, 47, called for more education on presumed consent - when people are considered donors unless they state otherwise - as she prepared for her latest charity event to raise awareness about the controversial subject.

The west Belfast woman's daughter Corrina died three years ago in Barcelona, days after undergoing a liver transplant. The 21-year-old's liver failed when she contracted swine flu while on holiday with friends. She died after developing complications following the operation.

But her mother said the experience of the "opt out" system in Spain, when a suitable donor liver was found for her daughter almost immediately, has convinced her of the need for change in Northern Ireland.

The Stormont Assembly recently debated the issue, with Health Minister Edwin Poots claiming the time had come for a public debate on presumed consent. A total of 17 people in Northern Ireland died between April 2010 and April 2011 waiting for organ transplants, while almost 300 remain on waiting lists.

Ms Ritchie said: "I have always supported organ donation, I didn't just change my mind because something happened to my daughter, but I suppose I just never thought it would come to my door. Nobody wants to talk about dying, no-one wants to think about it, I understand that, but I think they would be horrified if they knew how many people could live."

A member of the Northern Ireland Transplant Association, Ms Ritchie acknowledged that some people had concerns about the "opt out" system.

She added: "I think it is about education. In Spain it's just considered natural, they learn about it from a young age, that's the difference between the cultures.

"Around 70% of people get cremated here. When I read that and then think of all those people are dying from organ failure it makes me very sad that people are being cremated before they donate organs."

Ms Ritchie is hosting the Butterfly Ball in memory of her daughter and to raise awareness about organ donation at the Europa Hotel in Belfast on Saturday night. Tickets are available by emailing hair40@hotmail.co.uk.

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