Belfast Telegraph

Sport bodies back extra time for organ donation bill

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Jo-Anne Dobson has called for extra time to let as many people as possible support her bid to change the law on organ donation.

The UUP MLA has campaigned tirelessly for the cause which she holds close to her heart, as her own son Mark received a life saving transplant at the age of 15.

The consultation period for her Private Members' Bill, which she hopes will change the law so that everyone is automatically put on the register to donate unless they choose to opt out, was supposed to end on September 10.

But in order to reach the optimum number of people, Mrs Dobson has extended the closing date until September 24.

"There is spectacular demand, but because it was over the summer, some groups who want to show their support haven't been meeting up again until this week," she said.

"They all want to respond but if I closed it as I intended to on September 10, they wouldn't get the opportunity."

The MLA (right) marked the time extension at Parliament Buildings in Stormont last night where she was joined by representatives from Ulster Rugby, Northern Ireland football and the GAA in a bid to reach out to their combined following.

Among those in attendance was Linfield captain Michael Gault, GAA all-star Aaron Kernan and ex-rugby player Nigel Carr.

Mrs Dobson said: "I think giving the significance of the Northern Ireland football team, Ulster Rugby and GAA in Northern Ireland and given the giant combined following they have, it would be good to have them behind me supporting this extra time."

Jo-Anne Dobson knows first hand the impact that waiting on a donor can have on your life and wherever she goes people continue to share their stories with her.

She said: "No matter where I go people speak to me about it.

"Last Saturday I was at an event in Markethill and a woman said to me 'You don't know me but I know who you are, I had a heart transplant 12 years ago and I think it's marvellous what you are doing to give everyone the chance'."

"People have really taken this on board, you don't have to look very far to find people who have been touched by this, either a family member who has received it or who are waiting on an organ or are undergoing dialysis.

"I've always said that organ donation is not a political issue, it's so much bigger than that, it's a massive issue."

She added: "The main message of what I'm trying to do here is save lives."

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