A local MLA’s organ donation bill passed its first stage at the Assembly last Tuesday.
Ulster Unionist Jo-Anne Dobson’s Organ Donation Private Members Bill, known as the Human Transplantation Bill, passed the first legislative stage.
Last year, 17 local people died while waiting on a transplant which was above the Northern Ireland average of 15 per year.
Mrs Dobson, who is also the party’s health spokesperson said: “This cannot be allowed to continue, nor should the disgrace of local kidney patients being committed to an effective life sentence on dialysis while waiting to receive the gift of a new life.
“Medicine has advanced considerably since the Organ Donor Register was first introduced many decades ago and I pay tribute to the scores of local and national charity volunteers who I have been proud to join as a campaigner, to promote the life-saving power of organ donation.”
She went onto say, “The primary aim of this legislation is to save lives and I was proud to introduce the Bill to the Assembly as the mother of a kidney transplant recipient.
“This would be one of the most significant pieces of legislation which the Assembly could pass as it will help to balance the demand for life-saving organs with the current lower availability.”
Mrs Dobson claimed despite considerable efforts, the local pledges to the register have not risen beyond the mid 30%’s, while public support for organ donations stands consistently at around 90%.
“Prior to introducing the Bill I undertook a lengthy public consultation, the findings of which were backed by the recent Public Health Agency Survey into public attitudes towards organ donation,” she said.
“This showed an increase in support for a new opt-out system. I have also met with a considerable number of organisations and individuals as well as meeting with international organ donation experts in Brussels.
“My door has always been open, and will stay open throughout the Bill’s passage through the Assembly.
“Organ donation transcends politics and I am ready and willing to work alongside MLAs of all parties to discuss any changes or proposals which they may have to improve or amend the Bill.
“I and my colleagues have been roundly critical of the on/off Health Minister of late for shirking his responsibilities for the health of everyone in Northern Ireland.
“I am hopeful that as the Bill progresses a Health Minister will be in place and would welcome their assistance as this is an issue far too important to be left to a back-bench MLA alone.”