Northern Ireland welcome ‘Dáithí’s Law’
From 2023, adults in Northern Ireland will be considered potential organ donors unless they choose to opt out or are in an excluded group.
The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, which passed the final stage of consideration in the Assembly on Tuesday 8 February, will be known as ‘Dáithí’s Law’ in recognition of five-year-old Dáithí Mac Gabhann.
Dáithí has been on the waiting list for a heart transplant since 2018. During this time his family have worked tirelessly to campaign for a move towards soft opt-out law and to promote organ donation.
Welcoming the landmark law change, Health Minister Robin Swann said:
“I’m delighted that the soft opt-out bill has passed today. It marks a hugely significant step forward for all those waiting for a transplant.
“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.”
The Health Minister also thanked campaigners for their support in getting the law passed. Minister Swann said:
“I want to once again place on record my sincere thanks to Jo-Anne Dobson who personally first convinced me that our organ donation laws needed to change.
“I also want to thank the many individuals, families, teachers, patient support groups and charities across Northern Ireland who have worked tirelessly over many years to promote organ donation. There are too many to name, but particular recognition must go Dáithí, Máirtín and Seph Mac Gabhann for their resolve in not only campaigning for a change in law but also in raising awareness of organ donation. It is fitting that the change in organ donation law be referred to as ‘Dáithí’s Law’."
With effect from Spring 2023, it will be considered that everyone would be willing to donate their organs unless they have opted out or fall into one of the excluded groups.
A public awareness campaign will be launched ahead of the change coming into effect, to make sure people understand the new opt-out system and the choices they have.
Speaking following the final Assembly reading, Dáithí’s dad, Máirtín Mac Gabhann, said:
"This is a very emotional day for us as a family. Dáithí was accepted onto the waiting list for a new heart in 2018 and since then we have put everything into raising awareness of organ donation and campaigning for the law to change. It has been a long journey to get to this point but we are just so happy that this potentially life-saving legislation has been passed for Northern Ireland and very proud that the new law will be named after Dáithí.”
Welcoming the news, Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation, at NHS Blood and Transplant, said:
“We are delighted that Northern Ireland is joining the other UK nations in moving across to an ‘opt out’ system for organ donation. This is something which families and campaigners have been calling for over many years and a credit to a huge amount of hard work and persistence from everyone involved.
“It is important to remember that families will still always be consulted before organ donation goes ahead. Whatever you decide, the best thing you can do is to 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. Please register your decision and speak with your family today.
“It is fantastic to see the growing public support for organ donation across Northern Ireland and we hope that this will help save more lives.”
You can register your organ donation decision today online or call 0300 123 23 23. NHS app users can also use the service to record, check or update their organ donation decision.