Belfast Telegraph

MLA urges new donor system in emotional speech

By Noel McAdam

A Ulster Unionist Assembly Member has given emotional thanks to the family of an organ donor who saved her son’s life.

The UUP has already come out in favour of an opt-out system for organ donation where people would automatically be signed up as potential donors unless they asked to be removed.

Jo-Anne Dobson told her family’s story as MLAs heard there are 288 people awaiting transplants in Northern Ireland — and an average of 15 people in the province die every year waiting for an organ to be found.

The Ulster Unionist said her son Mark had suffered from kidney disease since he was born, but as a 13-year-old went into renal failure and was told he would need a transplant operation in one to three years.

“We had always lived with Mark’s kidney disease, but I cannot relay to you the shock it delivers to a family to hear that your son needs to have life-saving surgery,” the Upper Bann MLA said.

“But Mark is one of the lucky ones — he waited for 10 months for a successful donor organ to be found.”

Mrs Dobson added: “We do not know who the donor of Mark’s kidney was, and probably never will — but, even so, we thank their family every single day for giving Mark the gift of life.

“As they endured the indescribable grief of losing a loved one, through donating an organ they gave the selfless gift which enabled us to have a healthy and fit son.”

Her story came as MLAs voted to include the prospect of people being asked to opt out rather than opt in — currently the case in Wales — in a review of organ donations after a motion tabled by the DUP was adopted. The DUP’s Jim Wells — who is to be the next Health Minister — told how 37-year-old Declan Quinn was killed in a hit-and-run incident in Coalisland last July and as a donor no less than seven of his organs were transplanted to others on the waiting list.

“A four-year-old girl who was born blind had Declan Quinn’s corneas transplanted on to her eyes and she saw her parents for the first time.

“In the midst of a tragic situation, Declan Quinn’s relatives had the comfort of knowing that his death had brought life to others,” he added.

“There simply are not enough organs for transplant in Northern Ireland. It is as simple as that.”

factfile

There has been a significant increase in the number of kidney transplants in the province: up from 59 in 2008-09 to 70 in 2009-2010, and this year so far there have been 77 procedures.

In 2010-11, there were also 21 liver transplants, four heart transplants, four lung transplants and one combined heart and lung transplant.

All of those operations were, however, carried out in hospitals in Britain, because Northern Ireland only has the facilities to carry out kidney transplants.

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