Plea for opt in organ donation discussions

Plea for opt in organ donation discussions

8 January 2020

LOCAL politicians are to examine how they can promote the importance of organ donation.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council is working with the South Eastern and Southern health trusts on the issue, with many councillors keen to see plans for an opt out system.

This means that people would agree to donate their organs with those who do not wish to do this signing a register. However, this does not currently exist.

At Monday night’s monthly meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, a letter from the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health confirmed that there are no plans in place at present to introduce so-called opt out legislation.

However, Mr Richard Pengelly said that work is continuing to achieve higher rates of donation and transplantation to ensure that more people are able to receive the gift of an organ.

It is estimated that someone dies every six weeks in Northern Ireland waiting for an organ donation.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Rowallane councillor Kathryn Owen said she was not surprised at the content of Mr Pengelley’s letter, explaining that there is not much he can do without the required legislation being in place.

“Is there anything we can do at council level?” she asked.

“A lot of the things we would hear on this issue from people is that it is something they have never really thought about or spoken to their family about. For others it is something grim and morbid and an issue that they do not want to talk about.”

Cllr Owen said there were people dying in traffic accidents that would be perfectly good donors, but their family members do not know whether they wanted to donate or not. 

“There are literally people dying and perfectly good organs going into the ground. Is there anything that we can do to educate people and push a bit more on this issue as far as people putting themselves on the donor register?” she asked.

Cllr Roisin Mulgrew said organ donation was an issue she highlighted during her year as the district’s first citizen, explaining that workshops were held involving a number of young people who spoke with representatives from the “Braveheart” organisation. 

She described the event as “hugely successful” and suggested the organ donation issue could be one for discussions across the district’s DEAs.

Cllr Mulgrew added: “Organ donation is a conversation families hope that they do not have to have. There is an appetite for information on this issue.”

Rowallane councillor Terry Andrews also backed the suggestion for the organ donation issue to be discussed at DEA level and said it should also be discussed with the Education Authority and local health trusts.

Council director Michael Lipsett confirmed that he will be bringing a report on the organ donation issue to a future meeting of the local authority’s Active and Healthy Communities Committee.

He said the report will focus on how the council is going to approach the issue and will contain information on its work with the Public Health Authority, local health trusts and Education Authority.