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Mark Dobson: Thrilled an organ donor bill sails past third stage

In his weekly column, transplant recipient Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, praises MPs for progress on a life-saving Bill

Happy holiday: Jo-Anne and Mark on their Mediterranean cruise
Happy holiday: Jo-Anne and Mark on their Mediterranean cruise

This week marked another significant milestone at Westminster as the Organ Donation Private Members' Bill, dubbed Max's law, took a step forward by passing its all-important third stage.

When I heard the news I was packing for a Mediterranean cruise and was absolutely delighted to see how a Parliament united in a desire to save lives can coolly, calmly and objectively debate and support a bill aimed not at reducing or removing rights, but at saving and enhancing hundreds of lives each year.

Packing all completed - there's always that last minute item, or 10 - we have just arrived in Barcelona to head off on the beautiful Celebrity Eclipse for a voyage during which we will drop anchor in Spain, France, Italy and Gibraltar.

I've always been very relaxed around holiday packing, maybe too relaxed, as I remember mum saying that while we could always sort out any forgotten items like sunglasses, swimming shorts or aftershave, my tablets were the single most important items in our luggage.

Without all my medications I wouldn't be getting the right anti-rejection and stabilising doses and would need to seek urgent medical help as my transplant would be in danger.

My health professionals and medications keep my transplant alive, whether it was the kidney I received from a donor in 2009 or the kidney I received from my mum back in March this year - my experiences have made my priorities in life very clear indeed.

This is why when I hear news about politicians supporting and backing a law which remains very close to my heart, I am thrilled.

I remember well sitting in the little box in Stormont's Assembly chamber and listening to my mum presenting the reasons why Northern Ireland could and should grasp the opportunity to follow Wales in becoming the second region of the UK to adopt an Opt Out Organ Donation System.

While support for her Private Members' Bill came from the smaller parties across the chamber, I will never forget the myriad of arguments thrown up against the Bill from those who opposed change, including, bizarrely, that emotion should not be brought into the Assembly chamber.

Ultimately this week we saw that same proposal cruising along in Westminster with cool, calm debate, uniting parties and politicians.

The Westminster Bill, which applies to England only, will bring forward a change in the consent system for organ donation to an opt out system designed to simplify the process through which people donate, increasing the number of potential donors and at the same time respecting the wishes of people who don't wish to donate. As the Bill was being debated, a very difficult yet necessary truth was being outlined to MPs. Of everyone who died last year around the country, one person in 100 died in circumstances where they had the potential to donate their organs.

The truth is that even though we have hundreds of thousands of people registered as potential donors, only a very small number will ever actually be able to donate. That's why we need more people to think about organ donation and to have that all-important discussion with their family and loved ones because hundreds of people across the country, and on average 15 each year in Northern Ireland, continue to die because an organ is not available for them.

We all have priorities and we all have dreams - my dream is to see a world where no one dies needlessly because they couldn't get the transplant which would save their lives.

My tablets all safely stored away in my cabin, I'm going to make my priority for the days ahead to enjoy the cruise and to come back refreshed and renewed. I'm also going to take my first ever break from my column next week but I will be back again on November 14 to let you know how I got on and to continue to promote the life giving and life saving power of organ donation.

We all have it within us to be a life saver.

Belfast Telegraph


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