Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Organ donor plan brings fresh hope

Joe Brolly and Jo-Anne Dobson make compelling advocates for changing the way our organ donor system works.

Both are convinced that more donors will become available if Northern Ireland adopts an opt-out policy – meaning that people would be presumed to be in favour of donating their organs after death unless they formally removed their names from the register. At present would-be donors have to register and only 30% of people do so. As a result there are 200 people on the waiting list for a donor organ and 10% of those could die before one becomes available.

Health Minister Edwin Poots is to launch a consultation on changing the system. This would bring Northern Ireland into line with many other European countries. Both Mr Brolly and Mrs Dobson are convinced the new system will work beneficially. Human nature being what it is, many people mean to join the organ donor register but never get round to it. That problem would not exist under the proposed system and experience elsewhere in Europe shows a much higher percentage of people on the organ donor lists.

For those who worry that organs would be harvested without any recourse to relatives, the proposed new system would still allow relatives to override the wishes of the deceased. Some people may argue that this escape clause would undo any potential benefits of a change of system but that does not seem to be the case in other countries. Creating an opt-out system would mean that the principle of organ donation would become the norm in our society. It would mean that fewer relatives would object to organs being taken and bring more hope to those in need of a donation.

We often complain of the length of time local politicians take to make decisions. They seem intent on tackling this issue speedily and that is to be commended. It also gives them the opportunity to educate the public on the virtues of the new system and its benefits. The campaign for change should be handled with compassion and sincerity of tone with no party politics involved.

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