Belfast Telegraph

Two-thirds of NI people would back soft opt-out option, survey reveals

By Lisa Smyth

Nearly two-thirds of people are in favour of a soft opt-out system for organ donation in Northern Ireland, a survey has found.

However, it showed we have lower levels of support for the system compared to England and Scotland.

The British Medical Association (BMA) questioned people across the three nations to gauge support for the introduction of a soft opt-out system.

Under such a scheme, people would have to register that they do not want their organs used to help save lives in the event of their death.

Even under a soft opt-out system, medics would still seek the permission of the next of kin before organs are used for transplant operations.

The system was introduced in Wales in December 2015 and figures released by the Welsh government in June the following year revealed the scheme had saved dozens of lives in the six months since its introduction.

According to the findings of the BMA survey, which questioned 2,011 people, 60% in Northern Ireland were in favour of a soft opt-out scheme being introduced here. This compared to 68% in Scotland, 68% in the south east of England, 61% in the Midlands, 63% in north England and 73% in the south west.

The survey also revealed that Northern Ireland had one of the highest rates of people willing to donate their organs in the event of their death out of the regions questioned, with 59%.

Only Scotland had a higher rate, with 63% of respondents stating they were happy for their organs to be used in the event of their death.

Last year an attempt by UUP Upper Bann candidate Jo-Anne Dobson to introduce a soft-opt out system in Northern Ireland was defeated.

It came after a number of high profile transplant doctors spoke out against the scheme.

Dr Paul Glover, the regional clinical lead of organ donation, said he believed such a move in isolation would be unhelpful and potentially damaging.

Dr Glover said it was important people are educated about the importance of organ donation and that they discuss their wishes with their loved ones.

However, responding to the findings of the BMA survey, Ms Dobson said she was extremely heartened by the results.

"I have a very personal reason for backing a change in our organ donation laws," she said.

"And that is my son Mark, whose life was saved because of the selfless generosity of others.

"I ask people who remain sceptical about updating our organ donation laws one very simple question - if you were in the position of needing a transplant to save your life, would you say yes and accept it?

"If the answer to this question is yes, then the soft opt-out system makes sense."

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