Fifteen people die each year waiting on an organ donation in Northern Ireland.
With a total of 200 people on the current waiting list and just 31 per cent on the organ donor register the Public Health Agency (PHA) has launched a new campaign to raise awareness around the issue.
Health Minister Edwin Poots launched the The ‘Speak up and save a life’ campaign on Wednesday.
He said he would re-test public opinion after this latest campaign.
“Last year I asked the Public Health Agency to take forward work to establish public attitudes towards organ donation, including whether to introduce a statutory opt-out amongst other options.
“I have given careful consideration to the findings in the Public Health Agency’s report and consider increased public awareness, education on the key issues and the further development of transplantation services through UK-wide action appropriate at this time. I would like to thank the PHA for taking forward the public information campaign to raise awareness.
“I appeal to all those of varying opinion on this very emotive issue to support the Public Health Agency in taking this information campaign forward; this is a vitally important issue which will affect many people’s lives and it is imperative that we get it right.
“In the meantime may I once again urge everyone to consider signing the organ donation register and having made such a decision, to discuss their wishes with their families and loved ones.”
Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the PHA and Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee for Organ Donation and Transplantation, said the campaign is about encouraging people to discuss organ donation with their families.
“Organ donation really is the gift of life. The generosity of donors and their families enhances or saves the lives of recipients across Northern Ireland.
“We want to encourage people to talk about organ donation with family and close friends so they are aware of their wishes, to increase awareness of the organ donor register and how to sign up, and to increase the number of people in Northern Ireland on the organ donor register.
“Despite many advances and awareness-raising activities by various organisations in recent years on the issue of organ donation, not enough people are aware of the organ donor register, and as a result the number of people who have signed it is quite low. There is also too high a level of misunderstanding about organ donation itself. Most importantly, only 38 percent have discussed their wishes with their loved ones.
“This is the first public information campaign of its kind in Northern Ireland and takes a testimonial approach which shows the impact of organ donation from the recipient and the donor family perspectives, highlighting the importance of sharing our organ donation wishes with loved ones.
“Messaging will focus on lives saved by organ donation and the importance of telling your loved ones about your desire to be an organ donor. Unfortunately, the number of transplants needed is rising due to an aging population and increases in illnesses such as diabetes, kidney, heart and liver disease, so it is crucial that people speak up if lives are to be saved.”
For more information visit www.organdonationni.info.