Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: End procrastination over organ donation

Editor's Viewpoint

Tragic Glengormley mum Denise Carter died shortly after giving birth to daughter Leah eight years ago. Not only did she give life to the infant, but her organs were also donated and saved the lives of five people.

The knowledge that Denise helped others after her death has been a great comfort to her husband and their four children, including little Leah, who spoke so proudly of her mum at an organ donation event in Belfast. Leah told the audience that the organ donation had created a new, happy memory of her mother for the whole family.

What a wonderful way of expressing what organ donation can mean to the donor's family, never mind the grateful recipients whose lives are transformed.

Organ donation is about saving lives and improving the quality of lives. This week the Department of Health issued a consultation document outlining how a coordinated series of events can raise public awareness of organ donation and encourage more people to sign up to the donor register.

It also hopes to ensure that the consent rate from families asked to consider donating a loved one's organs is increased to 80% by 2020.

There are some 200 people in need of an organ transplant in Northern Ireland, and demand always outstrips potential supply.

In a bid to increase donation rates, former UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson, whose son Mark writes a weekly column in this newspaper about his own wait for a kidney transplant, introduced a Private Member's Bill in the Assembly in 2013 that included a soft opt-out clause.

Essentially, everyone would be deemed to agree to organ donation unless they opted out, instead of the present system, which requires people to opt in.

After three years she withdrew the Bill, claiming it had been shredded by the DUP and Sinn Fein for party political reasons, although it had also been opposed by leading transplant doctors who feared it might actually deter some people from donating.

What is clear, however, is that more organ donors are required and more families need to agree to the wishes of their loved ones after death.

People who want to become donors should make that clear to family members in case tragedy ever strikes, as in the case of Denise.

Ideally, the issue should be included in the next Programme for Government at Stormont - if the politicians ever return there.

Belfast Telegraph

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