Comment: The blunt truth is there aren’t enough transplant organs to meet demand

Jo-Anne Dobson is angry at the DUP and Sinn Fein's joint decision to block her Bill
Jo-Anne Dobson is angry at the DUP and Sinn Fein's joint decision to block her Bill

Supporting organ donation has been a lifelong campaign for me, and speaking with patient groups and fellow campaigners in recent days I know the real anger which exists at the actions of those who have opposed positive change.

I firmly believe that changing the law to an opt-out system presents the best solution to enable more people to get the chance of a new life which my son Mark received.

This view is widely shared by transplant experts across the world and legislation has already been adopted in Wales and is progressing in Scotland.

I’m angry about this week’s joint political opposition from the DUP and Sinn Fein, because Northern Ireland should never be left behind within the United Kingdom.

I thought this could at least be one area where the Assembly parties could work together to provide a good news story for the people of Northern Ireland by bringing in a soft opt-out system, and I am heartened by the continued support from the SDLP and Alliance.

The blunt truth is, whilst we have fantastic clinicians and an improving infrastructure, that the current availability of organs for transplant does not meet the ever rising demand.

As a result, hundreds of local people are confined to a lifetime on dialysis, and last year 17 local people died waiting on a life-saving transplant.

We all know the vast majority of the public support organ donation – over 90 per cent. But many just don’t get around to joining the register.

Introducing a soft opt-out system would better reflect the wishes of the majority, whilst giving those who do not wish to donate their organs, for the first time in law, the right to opt out.

In 2013 the First and Deputy First Ministers pledged their support for a change in the law, as did some of the few medics who are now expressing concerns. I am disappointed that both their parties have joined forces this week to oppose that positive change.

I have been heartened by the many messages of support I have received from clinicians who still continue to believe that a soft opt-out system is the best way forward to save lives.

Jo-Anne Dobson is a UUP MLA