Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler has warned that Northern Ireland is rapidly falling behind the rest of the UK and Ireland when it comes to the issue of organ donation. He was commenting in advance of a reception being held in Belfast on Friday for young Dáithí Mac Gabhann, who is currently on the transplant list awaiting a new heart.
The Lagan Valley MLA said:
“I have spoken to Máirtín Mac Gabhann and I’ve told him that he has my total support for the campaign that he’s running not only for his own child, but for all those who may one day find themselves waiting desperately on the transplant list.
“Organ donation is one of the most selfless acts of kindness one human can do for another. Yet despite a series of awareness campaigns and repeated government attempts to increase the organ donor list, the reality is that demand for transplants still far exceeds the organs available. As a result people are tragically still passing away each year whilst waiting for an organ.
“What makes the situation even worse is that Northern Ireland will soon have the most out-dated organ donation system of any region in the UK. Wales already has a soft-opt out system whilst England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are all moving closer towards one.
“I was immensely proud when my friend and former MLA colleague Jo-Anne Dobson took the brave and hugely welcome step of introducing a Private Members' Bill in the Assembly to create the legislative basis for a soft opt out system here in Northern Ireland. Regrettably her attempts were scuppered by others – mainly for political reasons - and as a result Northern Ireland has gone from once being a trailblazer in organ donation reform to having the most archaic system anywhere in these islands.
“For everyone who is currently waiting on an organ – like Dáithí Mac Gabhann – and for all those who will in the future, they deserve so much better.
“In the ongoing absence of a local Executive, I believe the consideration of a new system in England should also be expanded to include Northern Ireland as well. It’s simply not fair that people here should continue to miss out on the opportunity of a longer life.”