Belfast Telegraph

Ex-MLA Dobson who donated kidney calls for introduction of Northern Ireland 'opt-out law'

By Lauren Harte

A former MLA who donated her kidney to her son says she is disappointed that we are once again "lagging behind" when it comes to changing the law on organ donation.

Jo-Anne Dobson was reacting to news that Northern Ireland will soon be the only part of the UK without an opt-out organ donation system.

The decision by the UK Government to introduce legislation in England by 2020 follows similar decisions already taken in Scotland and Wales.

The plan shifts the balance of presumption in favour of organ donation, with an opt-out for those who don't wish to take part.

The changes will be known as Max's Law after Max Johnson, a 10-year-old boy whose life was saved by a heart transplant.

The Department of Health has confirmed that approval of similar measures here will be a matter for a future minister.

In March Ms Dobson selflessly donated one of her own organs to her son Mark (25) after the young man endured months of dialysis.

Two years earlier she brought forward a Private Member's Bill proposing that everyone would be on the organ donation register unless they opted out - but this was rejected by Stormont's health committee.

The ex-Ulster Unionist MLA says that the changes must also be replicated in Northern Ireland.

"I am overjoyed by this news from England for those people waiting on an organ donation as it will provide real hope for them," said Ms Dobson.

"My thoughts are with those who joined me on this journey, many of whom are sadly no longer with us, and for whom the opt-out system delivered that all important lifesaving hope for the future.

"However, it's also tinged with sadness as once again we will be left lagging behind and that's very unfortunate.

"Unfortunately, we did have an opportunity previously to be the second devolved region after Wales to bring this in but that opportunity was wasted. While this is a devolved matter, I do believe that it is only a matter of time before it does become law here even though we will be the last part of the UK to enforce it."

Mark had a previous transplant in 2009, and on August 1 last year that kidney was removed.

Mark then began three gruelling four-hour sessions of dialysis every week at Daisy Hill Hospital as the pair went through a long series of demanding medical tests to ensure that his mum's kidney would be a perfect match.

"It's emotional to be talking about all of this now one year on from Mark beginning his dialysis. We know what it's like and it remains very fresh in both of our minds," Ms Dobson added.

The Department of Health said yesterday: "In 2016, a new statutory requirement for the Department of Health was introduced to promote organ donation as a means of increasing the number of organs available for transplantation.

"Earlier this year, the department consulted publicly on proposals for this, focusing on effective promotion and communication to improve people's understanding of the benefits of organ donation, and encouraging positive behaviours such as joining the organ donor register and discussing wishes with loved ones.

"Final proposals will be put to an incoming minister for approval.

"In addition, following detailed consideration of the issue, the health committee declined to support a Private Member's Bill designed to legislate for a soft opt-out system of organ donation in Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph

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