Belfast Telegraph

Sort out the donor system now

Editor's Viewpoint

A critical spotlight has been shone on the health service in recent times, both in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK. The chaos in the A&E departments of some of our biggest hospitals has tarnished the reputation of the service and there are fears that the pressures on staff could impact on, or even jeopardise, patient care. There have also been a number of health-related scandals in hospitals in England and Wales.

This newspaper has focused on failures in the system in Northern Ireland when it has caused anguish to patients. We make no apology for that, as we, like the public at large, believe the primary duty of the service is to help people when they are at their lowest ebb through chronic or acute illness. If the system fails to deliver that service then it is deserving of criticism.

Yet we also believe in heralding the work of the doctors, nurses and allied specialists who daily perform miracles in the treatment of seriously ill patients. Just ask west Belfast woman Frances Downey, who was only days away from an inevitable death from heart failure when she was given a life-saving organ transplant and is now well on the way to leading a normal life for the first time in decades.

Her life was not only saved but also transformed and that was thanks to the generosity of spirit of the person whose heart she received. If that person had not made known their desire to be an organ donor then Frances would probably now be dead. Sadly that is what happens to around 15 people each year in Northern Ireland because of the lack of organ donors.

The expertise exists to save these lives but they are being failed by the system and by those of us who do not register as organ donors. There are currently two Bills before Stormont aimed at increasing the number of donors. Inevitably this clouds the issue when what we really need is a speedy resolution to the problem of donor recruitment. This is a measure which can save lives. Is anything else more important?

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