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Call to ease public confusion over donor law options

Health, social services and public safety minister Edwin Poots has said public confusion over a possible new organ donation law must be addressed.

 Mr Poots said he had not yet made a decision on whether an opt-out system with safeguards for organ donation will be introduced in Northern Ireland.

His comments come as two MLAs are preparing rival bills on organ donation.

Upper Bann Ulster Unionist Party MLA Jo-Anne Dobson is pressing for new legislation, which would mean people living in Northern Ireland would be expected to opt out of being organ donors.

Ms Dobson tabled her private member’s bill in December 2012. It is now at a drafting stage and was scheduled to be brought before the assembly this spring.

Education vital

However, East Antrim Democratic Unionist Party MLA Alastair Ross is bringing forward a new private member’s bill, which would ask people to make a decision on joining the Organ Donor Register as part of the driving licence process.

Mr Poots had refused to say which system he favours but explained a Public Health Agency survey has indicated ‘there is some confusion in the public mind about the concept of changing to a soft opt-out system for organ donation and we therefore need to address this in moving forward’.

He added: ‘I intend to make a statement to the assembly on the issue of organ donation in the near future.’

BMA Northern Ireland council chair Paul Darragh said the BMA strongly supported the introduction of a soft opt-out organ donation system in Northern Ireland.

But he added: ‘We believe that, in order for such legislation to be accepted by the public, it is vital that it is preceded by a public education and awareness campaign.

‘The results of the survey carried out emphasise the need for such a campaign and we welcome the minister’s commitment to it.’

The story so far

Public survey reveals support for soft opt-out organ donation system

Decision date set for opt-out organ donation

Clarity sought on organ donation campaign plans