UPPER Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson is delighted that her campaign for an ‘opt-out’ organs donations policy in Northern Ireland has been picked up by the Health Minister, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.
Mrs Dobson, who has been campaigning for a change in the law over the past few months, launched her own personal campaign on Tuesday - and it coincided with a public consultation exercise launched by Health Minister Edwin Poots, First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness at the City Hospital.
At the moment, people carry the donor cards on a voluntary basis, which states that their organs will be, on the occasion of their death, available for transplant. The scheme covers kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs and eyes. But new legislation would mean that everyone is a potential donor, and if they do not want their organs used, they have to fill in a form to opt out.
Mrs Dobson has submitted a Private Member’s Bill at Stormont and it will be debated at a later date. She said, “I have very personal reasons for submitting the Bill for public consultation - with doctors, nurses and the general public participating in the debate.”
Her younger son Mark received a kidney transplant four years ago, which has transformed his life. The Ulster Unionist MLA said, “It was ironic that I had been campaigning for transplants for three years before that - with the NI Patients’ Association and with the NI Kidney Research Fund which was run by the legendary Josie Kerr from my constituency. Mark’s story has been an example on how a transplant can change a life, and I trust the new legislation will be invoked soon. The opt-out legislation was not on the Assembly’s ‘Programme for Government’ and I am delighted that the consultation programme will be underway soon.”
Spain is the main EU country where opt-out has proven a real success, and the Welsh Government is currently pressing to introduce a similar model.