The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA, Junior Minister Jonathan Bell MLA and Health Minister Jim Wells MLA have launched Northern Ireland’s first Organ Donation Family Discussion Day.
Organ Donation Family Discussion Day on 11 December, is intended to encourage families from across Northern Ireland to sit down with their loved ones and discuss their views on organ donation.
Speaking at the launch of the Family Discussion Day the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “When people decide to donate organs, they give in the most altruistic way the gift of improved health and longer life. Their donation will change the lives of those who receive their organs, creating a legacy which will have immeasurable positive effects.
“It’s not enough to simply decide to donate your organs after death. Without family knowing about your decision, they may not agree to proceed with organ donation and many lives will be left unaffected. Often families don’t proceed with organ donation because they are uncertain about their loved ones’ wishes and feel daunted by the decision during their time of grief.
“I fully support this campaign to raise awareness and to encourage discussions about organ donation. This is not a campaign to change people’s wishes but simply to initiate conversations. By listening and respecting the wishes of your loved ones whenever the time arrives you will be better placed to do what they want. If you don’t discuss it you will never know.
“Organ donation will only proceed if a person’s family or loved ones consent to it. This is the case whether they are on the organ donor register or not. The ten minute conversation you have this Christmas will mean the last decision you make for your loved one is what they want and it could even make the difference between life and death for those waiting for a transplant.”
Junior Minister Jonathan Bell said: “I fully support this important campaign aimed at encouraging families across Northern Ireland to sit down and talk openly about organ donation.”
“Organ Donation Family Discussion Day will give families a valuable opportunity to talk about organ donation and to make their wishes known. Decisions made now could help save countless lives in the future.
“Approximately 15 people die in Northern Ireland each year while waiting for a transplant. I encourage everyone to think seriously about the life changing benefits that organ donation brings and make families aware of their willingness to donate.
“Organ donation cannot go ahead without family consent and that is why it is so important to be aware of the wishes of our loved ones, there are too many people in Northern Ireland who pass away without their families being aware of their views on organ donation.
“I urge every family to sit down on 11 December and have the conversation which could change someone’s life for the better forever. I commend everyone involved in this campaign for working so tirelessly to encourage and increase organ donation in Northern Ireland.”
The Health Minister, Jim Wells said: “Family consent is an extremely important issue when it comes to organ donation as doctors will not proceed with organ donation unless the patient’s loved ones or family consent to it. Family Discussion Day is a fantastic idea that will encourage more people to have this discussion with their own family.
“There have been great improvements in organ donation in Northern Ireland in recent years and the numbers of donors and transplants have risen dramatically in a short period of time. However, despite support for organ donation being very high, we need to do more to make sure people are aware of the organ donation register and also that they know how important it is to make their wishes known.
“As always, our sincere thanks go out to every family who, at a difficult time, either supported their loved one’s wish to donate their organs or made a decision to donate on their behalf. By doing so they have helped transform the lives of others.”
Organ donation will only proceed if a person’s family or loved ones consent to it. This is the case whether they are on the organ donor register or not. 84% of people in Northern Ireland supported the idea of organ donation, yet the latest statistic reveals that 38% of families refuse to give consent to the donation of their loved one’s organs when faced with this choice. A common reason for refusing to give consent is that the potential donor’s family were not aware of their loved one’s wishes.
If you haven’t already signed the register, or would like more information, please take the time to visit http://www.organdonationni.info which is full of useful information and resources.