Organ donation – whatever the politics it’s your shout that counts…

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Ten Lords a-leaping.

A vector illustration of ten lords a-leaping.

This blog is usually written from Northern Ireland.  We’ve no local equivalent to the House of Lords.  Any Lords or Ladies from here must leap over to Westminster to go about their business.    While they are a-leaping about over there, the N Ireland Assembly, Stormont, gets on with its own business, including shaping new laws.

One of the Bills going through that process here aims to introduce the opt-out system for organ donations.  If the Bill is passed, adults in N Ireland will be considered potential organ donors unless they choose to opt out or are in an excluded category.  It would bring N Ireland into line with Wales, Jersey, England and Scotland, where the opt-out system is already in use.

Last year, the Bill made it through the First and Second Stages in the Assembly.  In December, the Health Committee scrutinised and approved it, clause by clause, line by line.  It now goes back to the Assembly for more debate and then a Further Consideration Stage.  The Final Stage is one last opportunity for debate in the Assembly, with a vote on whether to pass the Bill.  If passed, it is formally given Royal Assent and, at the next full sitting of the Assembly, it is announced and becomes an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, a new law, usually coming into effect at once.

There’s a lot to do.  There are elections due here in May and thirty Bills on the table.  If it doesn’t get through before then the whole process goes back to the beginning and starts again with a new (or newish) set of politicians.

Meanwhile, about 115 people are on the transplant waiting list in N Ireland.  Across the UK, there can be more than 6,500 on the transplant list in a year.  Experience is strong that the opt-out system can lead to a higher number of organs becoming available, therefore saving more lives.

Donation will remain a personal decision.  Anyone can choose to opt out and not be considered a potential donor.  But no organs will be retrieved without the full consent of the family or loved ones.  Specialist Nurses will always talk to the family, and unless the family give permission, it all stops there.

Which brings us back to the aim of Live Loudly Donate Proudly – to encourage those who choose to be willing organ donors to be loud about it – to sign the register, to talk to family and friends and let them know your decision.  It makes a difference.  Only 5 in 10 families are likely to give permission unless they know it was their loved one’s wish to be considered a potential donor.  Then it leaps to 9 in every 10.  As only 1% of all UK deaths are likely to happen under circumstances allowing organ donation, that leap is a lifesaver, many times over.

Let people know what your decision is, what you would like to happen if the circumstances of your death allow organ donation to be considered.  Let people know and be proud of it.  More conversations mean more transplants.  More transplants mean more lives saved.  So, Lords, Ladies or whatever, leap to it…