Progress on Organ Donation Bill

Date published: 20 September 2021

Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed progress on the organ donation bill.

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Speaking following the second reading of the Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Today is another positive step forward in what has been a long journey for all involved in the organ donation process. It has been a privilege to bring the Second Stage of the Bill to the Assembly today and very timely that Assembly colleagues have agreed to the motion on the first day of Organ Donation Week.” 

Minister Swann continued: “In Northern Ireland we have a good record of organ donation, which we should rightly be proud of. However, with so many local people waiting for a transplant, we must do all we can to increase the number of organs available for transplantation.

“The Organ Donation Bill, which we hope will be enacted in Spring 2023, 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.”

Turning to Organ Donation Week, the Health Minister urged everyone in Northern Ireland to talk to their family and friends about organ donation: “It remains important for people to discuss their wishes with friends and family, and to join the Organ Donor Register – this week presents the perfect opportunity to have that conversation. Currently, 50% of the Northern Ireland population has signed the Organ Donor Register, but we still need more as there are around 115 Northern Ireland residents on the active waiting list for a lifesaving transplant.”

Organ Donation Week is a celebration of organ and tissue donation and transplantation which saves and transforms hundreds of lives each year. The aim of the week is to encourage conversations across generations to get everyone talking about organ donation, and to inspire new registrations to the Organ Donor Register.

Whilst the pandemic means that it is not possible to hold the usual programme of events in person this year, a series of virtual events and initiatives will be taking place across media platforms with health Trusts, Councils, charities and other organisations sharing messages and stories about organ donation. A number of iconic local buildings will also light up to mark the occasion and to honour organ donors and their families.

If you would like to sign the register or would like more information, please take the time to visit the organ donation NI website which is packed full of information and resources.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Families will always be involved before organ donation goes ahead. Whatever you decide, the best thing you can do is talk with your loved ones to give them the certainty they need to support your decision. Only half of families agree to donation if they don’t know their loved one’s decision, but this rises to 9 out of 10 if they know their loved one wanted to donate
  2. Each year in Northern Ireland around 10-15 people die while awaiting a transplant. In 2020/21 there are around 115 people in NI on the waiting list.
  3. 90% of people in Northern Ireland support organ donation. But only half of people have signed the Organ Donor Register
  4. Only 1% of people die in circumstances where donation is possible, therefore every donation is precious
  5. You can also become a living donor: Across the UK, more than 1,000 people each year donate a kidney or part of their liver while they are still alive to a relative, friend or even someone they do not know. The most commonly donated organ by a living person is a kidney. Part of a liver can also be transplanted from a living donor to help someone in need of a liver transplant.
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  8. 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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