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Lack of registered organ donors in Northern Ireland, says report

By Mark Bain

Only one council area in Northern Ireland has more than half its residents listed as an organ donor, new figures reveal.

Ards and North Down tops the list of registered donors, with 81,443 people (51%), but elsewhere in the region, the figure drops to under a third.

Bottom of the list compiled by leading mapping technology company, Esri Uk, is the Causeway Coast and Glens area, where there are 46,491 (32%) registered donors.

Belfast has the highest number of people on the waiting list for transplants, with 35 awaiting surgery, though the area fares better with 156,957 (46%) registered donors.

The figures have prompted a leading health organisation to reiterate calls for a 'soft opt-out' system for organ donation to be brought in to law here.

All other UK nations have either moved to an opt-out system or have made commitments to legislate towards one.

As Organ Donation Week begins, the British Medical Association NI says the lack of a functioning devolved government is delaying legislation to bring in such a system.

Currently, a person must register their consent to donate their organs in the event of their death.

Under an opt-out system, there would be a presumption in favour of consent for organ donation, unless a person had registered an objection in advance.

BMA Northern Ireland council chair Dr John D Woods said: "The lack of legislative movement towards a soft opt-out organ donation system here is yet another regretful consequence of not having a functioning Assembly.

"Research has shown that although almost everyone would accept an organ if they needed one and Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK which has not committed to it.

"Last year, 14 people died waiting for an organ. It's important that our elected representatives work towards introducing a soft opt-out system here."

Hillsborough woman Karen Murphy (45), went through a kidney transplant six months ago and says anything that gives people a better chance of life must be considered.

"I was found to have a kidney disease when I was 19. I'd been living with polycystic kidneys for over 25 years and it's a condition which deteriorates over time," she said.

"It got to the stage last year where I was in kidney failure and the only real option for me was a transplant."

After more than a year of waiting, Karen went through her transplant on February 27.

"I didn't really realise how ill I was until I recovered," she said.

"I'd got used to feeling the way I did, but the situation had become very grave for me.

"It's ridiculous how good I feel now, but that's the effect a transplant can have on someone's life.

"Having seen the condition some people are in waiting for transplants, anything that can be done to help has to be looked at.

"A change to the 'soft opt out' system will undoubtedly help people to start living their lives again. It would increase the supply of transplant options. Suitable organs for transplants are limited, not everyone is going to be as lucky as me.

"I'd like to think families out there who have lost a loved one would be proud to say they'd given a chance of life to someone."

Belfast Telegraph

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