Derry GAA pundit Joe Brolly says he’s delighted at how his life saving campaign to change organ donation from the opt-in policy to “a soft opt out” is progressing in the Republic.
Currently, anyone who wants to become an organ donor when they die must have registered in advance. However, since donating a kidney to his friend Shane Finnegan last year, the GAA All Star and ‘Journal’ columnist has been campaigning to change the law.
Under the new proposals people would be presumed to have given consent for their organs to be donated upon their death, unless they have opted out.
“Soft opt out means that even if you don’t opt out during your lifetime, your next of kin will still have the final say on whether to permit your organs to be used,” says Joe.
All parties are behind the campaign in Northern Ireland and and now Joe has taken it to the Republic.
The Dungiven man told the ‘Journal’ yesterday meetings with “very powerful men” in Dublin on Wednesday had gone extremely well, and he was delighted at how things were progressing.
“Things couldn’t be working out better in the South,” said the County Derry barrister.
Among those Joe met with included Oireachtas health committee chairman Jerry Buttimer, who he has been corresponding with over the last few weeks. He has also been working with Clinical Director for Nephrology, Urology and Transplantation at Beaumont Hospital, David Hickey.
Currently, in hospitals in the Republic, Joe says the infrastructure isn’t there for specialist resources to identify potential donors quickly. Instead there are informal arrangements for staff to identify potential donors, cross match them and speak to the families. The dad-of-five says unfortunately, it has meant massive opportunities are being lost.
“David Hickey and his team are out of this world, but in neighbouring hospitals they don’t have the infrastructure in place and that’s why there is such a wide variance in the South,” said Joe.
Twenty-five specialized organ donor nurses in the Republic would cost 1.5 million Euros, but Joe says that would be paid for by every two additional transplants in the Republic given that dialysis costs 70,000 Euros each year for every person, but each patient will save the exchequer 680,000 Euros over 15 years (simply on dialysis).
Keeping the momentum for the campaign going, Joe is set to meet with a number of “people of influence” over the next few months, including Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD in Cork. Both Shane and Joe will appear on television and radio including RTE’s ‘The Late Late Show’ and with veteran broadcaster Pat Kenny.
Joe expects public hearings to take place shortly and for the proposals to gain cross party support.
“It’s a ‘no-brainer’,” says Joe. “The ambition is for this to become a government bill and for it to be enacted next year. I’m delighted from all sides and, I mean, the reality is the argument is irresistible.”
Joe says it was his donation to Shane that acted as the catalyst for what he’s doing.
“The celebrity and furore created by our transplant, and all the goodwill around that, was the catalyst for the bleeding obvious,” he said.
Despite the fact he is still recovering from the donation, back working full time and travelling for work, Joe says: “All the late nights are worth it because this is the heart and the soul of the thing.
“It’s a deeply spiritual area, so I have to keep going. I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”