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Widow's plea over organ donation 'opt-out' system for patients

The Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report says there were 4,431 transplants in 2014/15
The Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report says there were 4,431 transplants in 2014/15

By Nevin Farrell

A woman whose husband died last year before he could get a heart transplant has backed calls for a 'soft opt-out' donation system to be introduced to Northern Ireland.

Suzanne Duncan was speaking as the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said a drop in the number of people donating organs in Northern Ireland highlighted the need for a new approach.

The foundation said eight people in Northern Ireland were currently waiting for a heart transplant.

The BHF in Northern Ireland wants a soft opt-out system - which assumes people consent to donate their organs unless they state otherwise - rolled out across the UK. It will be implemented in Wales in December.

Londonderry woman Mrs Duncan said her husband Andrew - who died in November aged just 38 - was put on the transplant list in 2011. "He waited to 2014 with no hope - not from the fact that he was too sick, just the fact that there were no donors," she said.

"I think everybody should get the soft option. If you don't want to be a donor then you opt out because the amount of people who are waiting and dying is a disgrace.

"My husband started the fight to get this legalised and I have to carry it on because my two children have the gene their daddy had so they will develop the heart disease like him.

"He was speaking to the politicians, he knew his time was running out but he was looking for it for his children and the people coming behind him."

She added: "I hope people will get behind the British Heart Foundation and get the opt-out system sorted because there are too many people dying who don't need to be dying."

The BHF say the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report revealed a 5% drop in the number of transplant operations being carried out over the last year.

Across the UK there are currently 286 patients on the waiting list for a heart transplant, compared with 126 in 2010.

Jayne Murray, head of BHF Northern Ireland, said: "Tragically, these figures show that the number of available organs is outstripped by the number of heart patients waiting for a lifeline.

"For many critically ill heart patients a transplant can offer the best chance of long-term survival, but there is a desperate shortage of registered donors.

"That's why BHF Northern Ireland supports the introduction of a 'soft opt-out' system across the UK."

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