Northern Ireland welcomes ‘Law of Dáithí’

From 2023, adults in Northern Ireland will be considered potential organ donors unless they choose to opt out or are part of an excluded group.

The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, which passed the final stage of consideration in the Assembly on Tuesday, February 8, will be known as “Dáithí’s Law” in recognition of the five-year-old Dáithí Mac Gabhann.

Dáithí has ​​been on the waiting list for a heart transplant since 2018. During that time, her family has worked tirelessly to campaign for a move to a soft opt-out law and to promote organ donation.

Welcoming the historic change to the law, Minister of Health Robin Swann said:

“I am delighted that the soft opt-out bill passed today. This is an extremely important step forward for anyone waiting for a transplant.

“The new law will strengthen the current legislative framework around organ donation and increase the current rate of consent in the small number of cases where it is clinically possible for organ donation to continue after a person’s death. This will increase the total number of donors and ultimately the number of vital organs available for transplantation.

The Minister of Health also thanked campaigners for their support in passing the law. Minister Swann said:

“I want to once again express my sincere thanks to Jo-Anne Dobson, who personally convinced me that our organ donation laws needed to change.

I would also like to thank the many individuals, families, teachers, patient support groups and charities across Northern Ireland who have worked tirelessly for many years to promote organ donation. There are too many to name, but special recognition must go to Dáithí, Máirtín and Seph Mac Gabhann for their determination not only to campaign for a change in the law but also to raise awareness about organ donation. It is appropriate that the modification of the law on organ donation is called the “Law of Dáithí”.

As of spring 2023, anyone will be considered willing to donate their organs, unless they have opted out or are part of one of the excluded groups.

A public awareness campaign will be launched before the change takes effect, to ensure that people understand the new opt-out system and the choices available to them.

Speaking after the Assembly’s final reading, Dáithí’s father, Máirtín Mac Gabhann, said:

“It is a very emotional day for us as a family. Dáithí was accepted on the waiting list for a new heart in 2018 and since then we have been doing everything we can to raise awareness about organ donation and make campaigning for the law to change It has been a long journey to get to this point but we are so happy that this potentially lifesaving legislation has been passed for Northern Ireland and very proud that the new law bears Dáithí’s name .

Welcoming the news, Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation, at NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

“We are delighted that Northern Ireland is joining other nations in the UK to move to a deferral system for organ donation. It’s something that families and activists have been asking for for many years, and it’s thanks to the tremendous hard work and perseverance of everyone involved.

“It is important to remember that families will always be consulted before organ donation. Whatever your decision, the best thing you can do is talk with your loved ones to give them the certainty they need to support your decision.

Only half of families agree to donate if they don’t know their loved one’s decision, but that rises to 9 out of 10 if they know their loved one wanted to donate. Please record your decision and speak with your family today.

“It’s fantastic to see the growing public support for organ donation in Northern Ireland and we hope it helps save more lives.”

You can register your organ donation decision online today or call 0300 123 23 23. NHS app users can also use the service to register, check or update their organ donation decision.

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