Relatives are urged to discuss organ donation
Families in Northern Ireland have been urged to sit down and talk about organ donation before it is too late.
A new campaign to encourage people to discuss whether they want their organs to be donated was launched yesterday.
More than eight in 10 of people (84%) in Northern Ireland support organ donation. But almost 40% of families refuse to donate their loved one's organs when faced with the decision after their death, according to the Public Health Agency (PHA).
There is a family refusal rate of just 15% in leading organ donation countries such as Spain.
Nearly 200 people are currently waiting for a transplant in Northern Ireland, and 15 people die each year while on the waiting list.
High-profile organ donor campaigners Joe Brolly and Shane Finnegan initiated the campaign to build momentum towards Organ Donation Discussion Day on December 11.
Mr Brolly, who won an All-Ireland title in 1993 with Derry and is now a successful Belfast barrister, made headlines when he donated a kidney to Mr Finnegan in 2012, a fellow volunteer children's coach at his local GAA club.
The pair were devastated when the PR executive's body rejected the organ, but have dedicated themselves to campaigning on organ donation. Mr Brolly said: "What we know from the families that have donated is that it is a great consolation to them - rather than the bleakness of death, they are proud that their loved one has given life to up to seven people. This transformation from death into life is an unbelievably powerful thing."
Not being aware of a loved one's wishes is one of the most common reasons potential donors' families refuse consent, the PHA research shows. A family is always required to consent to donation, whether or not their relative is on the organ donor register.
Families who are aware of their loved ones' wishes are more likely to donate their organs if the situation arises, according to PHA chief executive Dr Eddie Rooney.
He added: "This campaign is targeted at bringing about behavioural change and encouraging people to sit down together and have the conversation in the run-up to Christmas." Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "It's a time of the year when many people exchange many dubious gifts in terms of their quality and meaning. There is no greater gift than the gift of life.
"I certainly intend to have that conversation with my children and older grandchildren on Christmas Day."
The campaign will use the hashtag #Dec11Tellyourlovedones