'Opt-out' organ donation Bill passes final stages in Northern Ireland

'Opt-out' organ donation Bill passes final stages in Northern Ireland

A NEW 'opt-out' organ donation law has passed the final stage of the Northern Ireland Assembly, meaning that going forward all adults in the north will be considered potential organ donors unless they choose to opt out or are in an excluded group.

The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill will also be known as 'Dáithí's Law', named after five-year-old Dáithí Mac Gabhann who has been on the waiting list for a heart transplant since 2018.

During this time his family have worked tirelessly to campaign for a move towards soft opt-out law and to promote organ donation.

Northern Ireland has been the only part of the UK where the opt-out system is not already in place.

Welcoming the landmark law change, Health Minister Robin Swann said:

"I’m delighted that the soft opt-out bill has passed today. It marks a hugely significant step forward for all those waiting for a transplant.

"The new law will strengthen the current legislative framework around organ donation and will increase the current rate of consent in the small number of cases in which it is clinically possible for organ donation to proceed after a person’s death.

"Doing so will increase the overall number of donors, and ultimately the number of lifesaving organs available for transplantation," he said.

He also paid tribute to Dáithí and his parents Máirtín and Seph, " for their resolve in not only campaigning for a change in law but also in raising awareness of organ donation."

"It is fitting that the change in organ donation law be referred to as ‘Dáithí’s Law’."

From spring 2023, it will be considered that everyone would be willing to donate their organs unless they have opted out, and families will continue to be consulted about donation as well as considerations around faith and beliefs.

A public awareness campaign will be launched ahead of the change coming into effect, to make sure people understand the new opt-out system and the choices they have.

Speaking following the final Assembly reading, Máirtín Mac Gabhann, said:

"This is a very emotional day for us as a family. Dáithí was accepted onto the waiting list for a new heart in 2018 and since then we have put everything into raising awareness of organ donation and campaigning for the law to change.

"It has been a long journey to get to this point but we are just so happy that this potentially life-saving legislation has been passed for Northern Ireland and very proud that the new law will be named after Dáithí."