The Public Health Agency has aunched a new public awareness campaign to prepare people for the introduction of ‘Dáithí’s Law’ from next spring 2023.
The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022, to be known as ‘Dáithí’s Law’, received Royal Assent in March 2022. Named after 5-year-old organ donation campaigner Dáithí Mac Gabhann, who has been awaiting the gift of a new heart for nearly 4 years, the new law will change the system of organ donation in Northern Ireland to an opt-out system. This means, in the event that organ donation is a possibility after you die, it will be considered that all adults agree to being an organ donor unless they choose to opt out or are in an excluded group*. The best way to opt out is by registering a decision not to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
The law change will come into effect from next spring following a robust process of almost 2 years consultation with the general public and consideration and debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
As organ and tissue donation and transplantation saves and transforms hundreds of lives each year, the new law will help more people save more lives by making it easier for those who support organ donation to say ‘yes’ to giving the ‘gift of life’. This is because while 90% of people in Northern Ireland support organ donation, only 51% of people have registered their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Only 1% of people will die in circumstances where donation is possible, generally in hospital on a ventilator, which illustrates the shortage of organs and why every donation is precious. Sadly, last year in Northern Ireland 15 people died awaiting a transplant.
Aidan Dawson, CEO of the Public Health Agency welcomed the new campaign saying:
“The aim of the public information campaign is to ensure that the legislative changes are fully understood across all sections of the population, and that as many people as possible are aware of the law change, and how to register decisions. The campaign will also reinforce that organ donation will remain a personal decision and everyone will still have a choice if they wish to donate or not. The Public Health Agency encourages everyone to find out more about the law change, to consider their decision, and whatever their decision may be, to make sure they share it with those close to them.”
Last year in Northern Ireland, 55 families supported the gift of organ donation, which enabled 127 life-saving transplants across the UK. Organ donation is a most precious gift and the selfless act of donors and their families is at the heart of organ donation. 100 lives in Northern Ireland were saved and transformed through organ donation last year, however, there are around 122 people awaiting a transplant, waiting for the call to give them ‘the gift of life’.
Helping to unveil the new campaign was Dáithí along with parents Máirtín and Seph. Dáithí’s dad Máirtín shared their sense of pride in Dáithí’s Law and in seeing the new campaign, saying:
“We are delighted to be here today to help launch this very important campaign. It is an honour for our family that the law will be known as Dáithí’s Law and even better to know that the campaign is now starting to make people aware of what exactly the change of law will mean for people. Organ donation will always be a gift; the greatest gift a person can give.”
“Dáithí has been waiting on the gift of a new heart for almost 4 years now, and it was a privilege for us to play our part in the change of law. We think it’s a huge step in the right direction, along with education and the continued raising awareness of organ donation.”
As well as raising awareness of the law change, the campaign also reinforces the importance of sharing organ donation decisions. Should the worst happen, families find the organ donation conversation much easier if they already know what their relative would have wanted. Only a half of families agree to organ donation going ahead if they don’t know their loved ones’ decision, but this rises to 9 out of 10 if the family has had a conversation.
You can continue register an opt-in decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register up to and after the law change next spring. By doing so, you can proactively show your support for organ donation, giving loved ones the confidence and comfort to support your decision.