Date set for ‘Dáithí’s Law’ to come into effect

Date published: 01 March 2023

From 1 June 2023, all adults in Northern Ireland will be considered potential organ donors unless they choose to opt out or are in an excluded group.

The Department of Health has now been able to confirm the date for the introduction of 'Dáithí’s Law’, following the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Organ and Tissue Donation) Bill receiving Royal Assent yesterday. The Bill included a provision which allowed the Department of Health to lay the final regulations on organ donation changes today, 1 March 2023, without the need for an Assembly vote.

The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) legislation, known as ‘Dáithí’s Law’ in honour of six-year-old Dáithí Mac Gabhann, will change the way consent is granted. Ahead of June 1, the Public Health Agency will step up its comprehensive public education and awareness campaign to make sure people understand the new system and the choices they have.

Those excluded from deemed consent legislation are:

  • children under 18
  • people who lack the mental capacity to understand the change in law
  • visitors to Northern Ireland and temporary residents

Specialist nursing staff will continue to speak to families about donation, as well as considerations around faith and beliefs, before any organ or tissue donation goes ahead.

Peter May, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health said: "The 1st of June will mark another important milestone for organ donation in Northern Ireland. 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.

“I know that many people in Northern Ireland have campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of organ donation and I want to commend them for all their work in this area.”

Dáithí’s father, Máirtín Mac Gabhann said: “It was a very proud day for our family and campaign to have Dáithí’s Law included as an amendment on the Executive Formation Bill. To hear Dáithí’s name mentioned again, and again, in the House of Commons was something we will treasure forever. It was an incredibly difficult couple of weeks to get where we wanted to be, but we are just delighted to be here now and to see that Dáithí’s Law will be in effect by Spring 2023, as planned, is just the cherry on top.

“Dáithí continues to fight every day while he waits for the gift of a new heart, and we hope that this change in law helps make organ donation the norm in society, along with education and further awareness. We will never stop spreading the positive message of organ donation, as we hope that one day it will save our Dáithí’s life.” 

Notes to editors: 

1. Photo caption: Six-year-old Dáithí Mac Gabhann

2. Following the Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill (Northern Ireland) 2022 being passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly in February 2022, it was announced that the law would come into effect in Spring 2023 following a 12-month planning and implementation period.

3. Over the past year, the Department of Health has been working closely with partners and stakeholders to ensure that the health system, staff, and all of the supporting infrastructure, and legislation would be operationally ready for rule change. This included the drafting of secondary legislation to clarify which organs and tissues are covered by the provisions of the new law.

4. To date, additional specialist nursing staff have been recruited, staff training has been provided to those working across all HSC Trust intensive care units, the Human Tissue Authority’s (HTA) Code of Practice (CoP) has been revised to reflect the legislative changes in NI, secondary legislation has been prepared, and the Public Health Agency has begun to roll out the first phases of a comprehensive “You could be a Lifesaver” public awareness and education campaign.

5. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email

6. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt.

7. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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