Organ donor opt-out defeat will sadden patients: MLA

Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, who proposed the opt-out system, with her son Mark who received a donated organ
Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, who proposed the opt-out system, with her son Mark who received a donated organ

The lack of progress on a bill which seeks changes to the law around organ donations will disappoint those in need of a transplant, said one MLA.

Kieran McCarthy had backed the Human Transplantation Bill when it came before Stormont’s health committee this week – but said that the bill looks destined to fail.



The bill sought to create an “opt-out” system for donations – meaning essentially that instead of “opting in” to donate organs, it is assumed that everyone has already automatically given their consent unless you specify otherwise (and your immediate family members agree).

In the committee meeting on Thursday, the bill (tabled by the UUP’s Jo-Anne Dobson) faced opposition from the two biggest parties, the Alliance’s Mr McCarthy said.

“It is unfortunate that there seemed to be a determined effort by both the DUP and Sinn Fein to put a halt to this really,” he said.

He added that details around the granting of consent appeared to be at the centre of their concerns, adding: “I suppose there are ambiguities there, but I didn’t think it was beyond the realms of possibility to overcome.”

Asked what will happen next, he said: “It’s up to Jo-Anne. I’d have thought she’ll sum up and see she’s not going to get it through the Assembly, because the same thing would happen in the Assembly [as happened in the committee] – the main parties would object.

“It seems to me she’s come to the end of the road.

“If you were waiting for a life-saving organ, for instance – a kidney or whatever it may be – and seeing what happened, you’d be extremely disappointed because we’re not, it seems to me, going to be able to progress Jo-Anne’s bill.”

DUP MLA Alastair Ross said earlier in the month “introducing a model of presumed consent for organ donation is both unnecessary and potentially counterproductive.”

Organ donor, lawyer and GAA pundit Joe Brolly had told the committee the bill read like “total gobbledygook” and was “very confusing”.