“Words Save Lives” – let’s talk about organ donation

Date published: 02 September 2019


The Department of Health and the Public Health Agency are urging everyone to talk to their family and friends about organ donation during Organ Donation Week (2-8 September).

The theme for this year’s Organ Donation Week is “Words Save Lives” and we are appealing to everyone to have the conversation. Let your family and friends know of your wishes to enable them to make a positive choice on your behalf. While approximately 45% of the Northern Ireland population has signed the Organ Donor register - we still need more.

The Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly said: “In Northern Ireland we are fortunate to have a good record of organ donation, which has enabled many people to receive the gift of life. However, with around 140 people currently waiting on a transplant we must do all we can to increase the number of donor organs available.

“I want to encourage everyone on Organ Donation Week to use this opportunity to discuss their wishes with friends and families and join the organ donor register.”

Monica Hackett, Regional Manager with the Northern Ireland Organ Donation Services Team, said: “Last year in Northern Ireland, 46 donors and their families generously said yes to organ donation, giving the gift of life to 106 recipients. But we need more families to agree to donation for more transplants to take place.

“Our Specialist Nurses support families at a very traumatic time in their lives to discuss their views and feelings about organ donation. If you have never talked about organ donation, it can be difficult for your family to know what you would have wanted. We know that fewer families agree to donation going ahead if they are unaware of their loved one’s wishes. I would encourage everyone to think about donation discuss it with your friends and family and join the organ donor register.”

A series of events are taking place this week, including the lighting up of iconic buildings such as Parliament Buildings, Titanic Belfast and various local council buildings. Many of these events have been organised by local charities and people who have either had a loved one who donated an organ to give the gift of life, have received a life-saving transplant, or who are currently waiting on an organ.

The family of 3 year old Dáithí from Belfast, who is currently waiting on a new heart, have organised a number of events to help raise awareness. His father Máirtín Mac Gabhann said: “Dáithí has been on the routine transplant waiting list for over a year. In that time we have been trying our best to normalise the conversation around organ donation.

“We believe that “Words Save Lives” through sharing Dáithí's personal story, 1000s of people have joined the organ donor register, and we are convinced that numbers will continue to rise by talking about organ donation. 

“This journey can be horribly isolating and lonely at times, but knowing that there are people out there willing to give that gift of life does make a difference. Dáithí is our inspiration and keeps us strong. We just want people to be open minded about organ donation and to have that conversation. Talking about organ donation and sharing your wishes with a loved one could one day save up to 9 lives. We need people to talk and think about organ donation today.”

If you want to be an organ donor, join the Organ Donor Register and tell your family and friends as soon as possible because ‘Words Save Lives’.

If you would like to sign the register or would like more information, please take the time to visit www.organdonationni.info which is packed full of information and resources.

Notes to editors: 


  1. For media queries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 9052 0575 or email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk. For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt
  2. For media enquiries, contact PHA Corporate and Public Affairs on 0300 555 0117.
  3. Follow the PHA on Twitter (https://www.twitter.com/publichealthni) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/publichealthagency) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/publichealtni).
  4. More information on organ donation can be found at www.organdonationni.info

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