Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

No time to lose on organ donation

As the decision on a new method of organ donation is delayed to allow yet more consultation on the issue, the public needs to be aware of about what the proposed change is all about. The so-called soft opt-out system presumes that if you die, and your organs are both needed and suitable, then they can be used. But there are two vital provisions.

Firstly anyone can opt out of the system while still alive and secondly, after death, the consent of next of kin is still required before organs can be removed.

This is a system which operates successfully in several European countries and recently has been adopted in Wales. It is seen as a method to increase the rate of organ donation. And more donors are urgently needed. Some 15 people die each year in Northern Ireland while awaiting an organ transplant.

There may be people who object to organ donation on ethical or religious grounds but their rights would not be infringed by the new system.

Some may also argue that it is wrong for the state to presume a right to anyone's organs. Again the individual or, after their death, their relatives can say no to any request.

It is difficult to understand why there needs to be further consultation on this issue. The pros and cons are widely understood. There are suspicions that the delay may be more to do with politics than any furtherance of knowledge.

A DUP colleague of the Health Minister has submitted a counter proposal, and Ulster Unionist colleagues of Jo-Anne Dobson who proposed the soft opt-out system feel this is part of a plan to stop her getting credit for a popular piece of legislation at election time.

We don't believe there is any widespread opposition either among the medical profession or the public to Mrs Dobson's proposal.

It is merely a statement of intent that this society is serious about helping people who urgently need an organ transplant.

To allow even one person to die through needless delay would be an indelible stain on the Executive's legislative record.

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