Belfast Telegraph

Bid to change organ donation laws

The introduction of a presumed consent model of organ donation in Northern Ireland would effectively wipe out waiting lists in the region, a leading campaigner has insisted

Former gaelic football all-Ireland winner turned organ donor champion Joe Brolly said a proposed change to the law at Stormont had given patients on "death row" hope that there was now light at the end of the tunnel.

Mr Brolly was attending the launch of a public consultation exercise in Belfast on replacing the current opt-in donor register with a so-called 'soft' opt-out system, whereby consent would be presumed unless a person actively objects during their lifetime, with an added role for family members upon death.

The legislative move is being introduced through the Northern Ireland Assembly by way of a Private Member's Bill tabled by Ulster Unionist Jo-Anne Dobson, whose own son Mark's life was saved by a kidney transplant.

Mr Brolly said: "I can't tell you how delighted people on waiting lists and their families are about this, they see a real possibility, there's real light at the end of the tunnel. It will be a very good thing for our society, I think it is something we will all be very proud of."

Mr Brolly, who won the all-Ireland title with Derry in 1993 and is now a successful barrister in Belfast, made headlines across Ireland last year when he donated one of his kidneys to a fellow volunteer children's coach at his local GAA club.

The transplant operation on PR executive Shane Finnegan ultimately failed when the organ stopped working but since then Mr Brolly and Mr Finnegan have become vocal campaigners on the issue of both live and after-death donations.

Mr Brolly noted that countries with the soft opt-out system - such as Portugal, Croatia, Spain and Belgium - had the highest global transplantation rates.

He attended the launch of the consultation fresh from an appointment at the renal unit at Belfast City Hospital.

Reflecting on the plight of some of the patients in the unit, Mr Brolly added: "Those are people on death row, this will make a massive difference in that regard because if we can get our donation rate up from about 22 per million of population to Spain's (rate), which is 36 per million of population this year, then in practice that will mean that there really will be no waiting lists and people won't have to suffer in the way they have done before, so this is all good."

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