Meeting with First and Deputy First Ministers
On the invitation of Mrs. Jo-Anne Dobson, MLA, I attended a meeting at Stormont on Tuesday 25th March, at which the First and Deputy First Ministers heard arguments in favour of a change to the law on organ donation.
Mrs. Dobson is currently working on a draft of her Private Member’s Bill to change the law from an ‘opt-in’ system to a ‘soft opt-out system’. Such a change reflects the views of 85% of the RVH Liver Support Group’s membership from the poll taken in December 2011.
I was fortunate to be given an opportunity of presenting some of the arguments – the fact that countries with some form of opt-out system have around 30 deceased donors per million of population while the UK has only 19; and the prospect of a more open culture for discussing organ donation ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are better known. Others emphasised that donation must always be preceded by family consent and that a change in the law must go hand-in-hand with improved infrastructure and thorough public education.
I was also fortunate to be able to say a little about the work of the RVH Liver Support Group and about the experience of liver patients – whose mean waiting time for a transplant is 175 days; who have to travel to England for surgery; and who, when they get there, will be treated by transplant teams who are now having to use ‘extended criteria’ organs, since the need for organs outstrips their current availability.
It was a privilege on the day to be able to pass on something of the experience of liver transplant patients to our two most prominent politicians.