Although almost everyone would accept an organ if they needed one, just 46% of the population of Northern Ireland are registered organ donors.
At present, around 140 people in Northern Ireland are on the transplant waiting list and last year nine people died waiting for an organ.
It may seem like a lot of people are already on the register, so why do we still have a shortage of organs? Only a small percentage of those who’ve expressed a wish to be a donor will die in the right circumstances for donation to be possible. This makes it crucial for more people to sign the register or talk about their wishes to a family member or friend.
In the past, many people carried an organ donor card; however, these were easily misplaced and were not centrally recorded within the healthcare system. Under the current system in Northern Ireland, if you want to register your wish to be an organ donor, you must sign the NHS Organ Donor Register. Once you sign, you’ll receive a card along with a letter of confirmation, but you don’t need to carry this.
You may have also heard that organ donation here is under review and you may be confused about what’s happening. Northern Ireland is debating the possibility of changing organ donation legislation to a ‘soft opt-out’ system. This means everyone would be presumed to have consented to organ donation unless they register their decision to opt out. However, this proposed change to legislation has not yet been agreed or implemented.
No matter what system is in place, however, your family or the person closest to you will always be consulted after your death. It’s important to talk to them about your wishes so they know what to do.