Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Organ donation is greatest gift of all

Editor's Viewpoint

There was a vivid reminder of the value of organ donations at yesterday's announcement of a £250,000 funding boost to promote the service.

Among those present was two-year-old west Belfast boy, Dáithi Mac Gabhann, who was born with a congenital heart defect and now urgently needs a heart transplant. The little boy has already undergone traumatic operations and his family desperately hope that a donor organ can be found.

There are 140 people in Northern Ireland in a similar position, needing lifesaving donations, but one third of families approached decline to give permission for their loved one's organs to be used.

It is an understandable reaction because approaches for organ donation have to be made at a time of greatest trauma for families who have lost a loved one.

That is why the emphasis of this new promotion is in getting would-be donors to discuss the issue with their families and to stress that in the event of death, they would like their organs to be used to help someone else.

It should be remembered that one person's organs can help up to nine other people - not only to survive a potentially fatal or life-changing condition, but to lead a normal life thereafter.

Also present yesterday was an inspiring mother, who donated her daughter's organs after she took her own life.That took tremendous courage and enormous selflessness and humanity to think of others when her own life had collapsed around her.

Yet, as she testified, it was a decision which paid dividends for her. It helped her to make sense of her daughter's death, that others benefited from it. A further bonus is that her family all now carry donor cards.

Northern Ireland leads the world in live kidney donation and transplantation, which shows the generosity of spirit of people here to help others in need. But those are conscious decisions taken by the donors themselves. That is why it is vital that would-be donors discuss their wishes frankly with their families in case the worst ever happens to them.

As well as creating greater awareness, the new initiative is also aimed at ensuring there is adequate infrastructure in place to cope with an increase in donations, making this a proper joined-up approach.

At this time of year when the emphasis is on giving and receiving presents, it is fitting that a new discussion is being held on the greatest gift of all - the gift of life.

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