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Organ donor bill can be reworked

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 11/02/2016

Jo-Anne Dobson
Jo-Anne Dobson

Understandably, Jo-Anne Dobson is frustrated that her bill aimed at increasing organ donation in Northern Ireland stands no chance of being passed, and, therefore, she has withdrawn it.

She knows first-hand the benefits of organ donation - her son received a kidney transplant seven years ago. She also knows that demand for organs outstrips supply and that people die every year waiting in vain for a transplant operation that never comes.

Ms Dobson blames politicking at Stormont for the demise of her Private Member's Bill, which attempted to introduce an opt-out system - people would be presumed in favour of giving their organs for donation unless they stated otherwise during their life - similar to that introduced recently in Wales.

She claims the major parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, literally picked her bill apart through amendments until it bore no relation to her original intentions. Given her views, she is quite right to withdraw the bill and await a time when it stands more chance of success.

However, she should also bear in mind that eminent doctors in Northern Ireland criticised the opt-out principle in evidence to a Stormont committee, arguing it could have the reverse effect to the one intended.

Relatives could argue successfully that the departed had never made their views on organ donation known, and even when the departed had agreed to organ donation, relatives could still override those wishes.

The doctors and those who neutered Ms Dobson's bill are broadly in agreement on the need for greater public education on the need for organ donation.

It has to be pointed out that Northern Ireland has the highest organ donation rate in the UK and one of the highest internationally.

But is education enough? There have been numerous publicity drives on the need for more donors and also of the benefits of organ donation, through which one person can save or improve several people's quality of life.

The problem is that too many people don't discuss this issue with their families, and so doctors can be left in limbo when organ donation is possible.

Perhaps the best approach for Ms Dobson is to take all the evidence on board again and see if her intended legislation can be tweaked to take heed of the medical concerns expressed while also incorporating a formula for increasing organ donation.

Belfast Telegraph

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