ALL adults in Northern Ireland will be deemed potential organ donors from today as the legislation known as Dáithí’s Law comes into effect.
Formally titled The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, the new law changes the way organ donation consent is granted to make it an opt-out system in the North of Ireland.
All adults will be presumed an organ donor unless they have opted out of the scheme or are in an excluded group, which includes children under 18 years, those who lack capacity to understand the new law and those who are temporarily resident in NI.
The legislation, which came into effect following a campaign led by six-year-old Belfast boy Dáithí Mac Gabhann, who has been waiting for a heart transplant since 2018, is designed to increase the current number of organs available to people in need of a transplant.
Department of Health Permanent Secretary Peter May said today is a “hugely significant landmark day for organ donation in Northern Ireland”.
“More than 140 people are waiting for transplant across Northern Ireland,” he confirmed.
“The opt-out system means that all adults in NI, unless in an excluded groups, will be considered to be organ donors after death unless they chose to opt-out.”
He added: “Everyone will still have a choice – people are free to opt-in, opt-out or amend their decision at any time – and families will continue to be consulted.
“We know that the vast majority of people here say that they support organ donation in principle, but many people still haven’t got round to signing the NHS Organ Donor Register or telling their families.
“By switching to an opt out system, the hope is that this makes it easier for families to support donation.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has welcomed the enactment of the law today, stating it “will save lives”, while commending the MacGabhann for their achievement.
“The introduction of Dáithí’s Law is a momentous day for both the MacGabhann family and the North as a whole,” the MP for Foyle said.
“I cannot commend the MacGabhann’s highly enough for the way they worked tirelessly to get this legislation over the line, no matter what obstacles were put in their way they refused to give up and fought for solutions that will have a profound impact on the futures of many people here.”
He added: “As a result of Dáithí’s Law people who have been waiting on organ donation waiting lists now stand a better chance of finding a donor which will change and, in many cases, save their lives and I can’t think of many achievements more significant than that.”