More people need to discuss organ donation

Date published: 03 September 2015

Health Minister Simon Hamilton today welcomed the publication of the Public Health Agency’s evaluation of its public information campaign on organ donation.


The awareness campaign, which ran throughout 2014, gives an important insight into local attitudes towards organ donation. The campaign made people more aware of the Organ Donor Register and increased the number discussing their wishes with a family member.

The Minister commented: “The Public Health Agency’s Evaluation shows that obtaining consent for organ donation from family or friends is still one of our biggest challenges in increasing the number of organs available for transplant. It is vital that you discuss your wishes with your family. Even if you are a registered donor, after your death, your family will be asked if they agree to organ donation and any decision they make will be respected.

“When families or friends know your views on organ donation, it makes the decision much less difficult and gives them the confidence that they are following your wishes.”

The Evaluation also indicates that while there has been a slight increase in the number of people who would be in favour of changing to a system of presumed consent, there are still significant numbers of others unsure or opposed to it.

Minister Hamilton said: “Although based on a small sample, the Evaluation suggests a small increase in support for a system of presumed consent or ‘soft’ opt-out. This would require legislation in the Assembly which would be a very significant change and not one that should be taken without having first examined the best available information on the likely impact of such legislation.

“I therefore want to carefully watch how the new ‘soft’ opt-out system being introduced in Wales from this December affects their organ donation consent rates from next year onwards. Wales has a similar NHS system to Northern Ireland and I expect that we will be able to learn from their experience and use it to carefully consider the future for organ donation in Northern Ireland along with the views of local transplant clinicians and other stakeholders.

"I have been struck in discussions with the health professionals most directly involved in this in this area how well Northern Ireland is doing compared with other regions. Northern Ireland has amongst the very best live donor rates not just in the UK but in the whole of Europe.”

The Minister commended the great improvements in organ donation and transplantation in Northern Ireland in recent years, as the numbers of donors and transplants have risen significantly in a short period of time.

The Minister continued: “Next week is National Transplant Week and I would encourage everyone who has not already done so to consider joining the Organ Donor Register, and to please make sure they take the time to discuss their wishes with their family and friends. I have recently visited the Transplant Unit in Belfast City Hospital and was immensely impressed with the work they do and the life changing impact organ donation has on those in desperate need of a transplant.

“I am very grateful to the individuals and families who have shown courage and generosity in donating organs so that other lives can be saved.

“Every year, around 15 people in Northern Ireland die waiting for an organ transplant. Organ donation is the most precious gift you can give; by signing the register and talking to your family about your wishes you could help save the lives of up to seven people.”

You can sign up to the Organ Donor Register or obtain further information online.

Notes to editors: 

  1. PHA’s Evaluation
  2. The campaign made people more aware of the Organ Donor Register, with an increase of 12 percentage points in awareness of the Organ Donor Register compared to 2013, and an increase of 3 percentage points in the number discussing their wishes with a family member.
  3. Organ donation consent rates across the UK remain at less than 60%.
  4. Media enquiries to DHSSPS Press Office on (028) 9052 0579. Out of office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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