Yesterday, Northern Ireland Health Minister, Edwin Poots, outlined the latest steps in his organ donation policy. The fundamental aim is to increase the number of donors. It is also a case of "harmonising in line with the performance" of other countries in terms of organ transfers.
Edwin Poots went on to outline the results of the survey which he commissioned the Public Health Agency (PHA) to carry out in order to find out opinions on the subject of organ donation. 84% of those who completed the survey welcomed the idea of organ donation. All of the findings from the survey have been fed into the information campaign launched today by the PHA. The purpose of this campaign is to encourage citizens to inform their next of kin whether or not they wish to donate their organs. Following this campaign, which is scheduled for completion in 2014, the PHA will carry out another survey in order to introduce further measures in this respect.
To date, the donation system in Northern Ireland has been carried out as an "opt-in system" which requires everyone to voluntarily give his/her consent to donate organs. However, most European countries have swopped their opt-in system for an opt-out approach, which works in the opposite direction, i.e. deleting names from registers because all patients are assumed to be donors for the medical organisations. It is debatable whether Northern Ireland will opt for this system in the end, as Scotland has just done.
Approximately 15 people die every year in Northern Ireland whilst waiting for a transplant.