National Organ Donation Laws – ‘Dáithí’s Law’ comes into effect in Northern Ireland:
Further to LTB 373/22 this is to report that as of 1 June 2023, the so called ‘Dáithí’s Law’ came into effect and all adults in Northern Ireland will now be considered potential organ donors unless they choose to opt out or are in an excluded group. Northern Ireland is the last part of the UK to move over to an ‘opt out’ system.
The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) legislation, known as ‘Dáithí’s Law’ in honour of six-year-old Dáithí Mac Gabhann, changes the way consent is granted and follows similar previous law changes in Wales, England and Scotland.
Ahead of the new law coming into effect, the government stated that more than 140 people are waiting for transplants across Northern Ireland. The opt-out system means that all adults in NI, unless in an excluded group which includes children under 18 years, those who lack capacity to understand the new law and those who are temporarily resident in NI, will be considered to be organ donors after death unless they chose to opt-out.
Everyone will still have a choice – people are free to opt-in, opt-out or amend their decision at any time – and families will continue to be consulted. The vast majority of people support organ donation in principle, but many people still haven’t got round to signing the NHS Organ Donor Register or telling their families.
There has been an increased public awareness, discussion and support for organ donation during the law change process and it’s hoped that in time, this will lead to more people saying yes to donation and helping save more lives.
Last year in Northern Ireland, 96 patients received a life-saving transplant from a deceased donor, and NI had 59 donors who enabled 140 life-saving transplants across the UK. Sadly, 10-15 patients die each year in NI while awaiting a transplant.
Dáithí Mac Gabhann has been on the waiting list for a heart transplant since 2018 and his family have campaigned tirelessly in support of the law change. The 1st June also marks five years since he was added to the list. During this time his family have worked tirelessly to campaign for a move towards the ‘opt-out’ law and to promote organ donation. They plan to continue to spread the message of Dáithí’s Law and continue to raise awareness of organ donation at any opportunity.
Here’s an update on the organ donor laws across the UK and crown dependencies:
On 20 May 2020, the law around organ donation in England was changed to allow more people’s lives to be saved. The law introduced a system commonly called ‘opt-out’ or ‘deemed consent’. All adults over 18 in England are now considered to have agreed to be an organ and tissue donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate and they have ‘opted out’ or are in one of the excluded groups.
Wales led the way and on 1 December 2015 the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 came into full effect, making Wales the first country in the UK to introduce ‘opt-out’ or ‘deemed consent’ legislation, meaning that if a person hasn’t registered an organ and tissue donation decision, people will be considered to have no objection to becoming an organ and tissue donor after death.
The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019 was passed by the Scottish Parliament in July 2019. The legislation provides for a ‘deemed authorisation’ or an ‘opt out’ system of organs and tissue donation for transplantation. The system came into effect on 26 March 2021.
On 1 June 2023 the Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 came into force and the law around organ and tissue donation in Northern Ireland has now moved to an ‘opt-out’ system from the current ‘opt-in’. This will mean that in the event that organ donation is a possibility after a death, it will be considered that individuals agree to being an organ donor unless they choose to opt-out or are in an excluded group. The new law known as ‘Dáithí’s Law’ is in recognition of five-year-old Dáithí MacGabhann who has been on the waiting list for a heart transplant since 2018.
In April 2018 the Jersey States Assembly passed legislation that saw the island move towards a deemed consent, ‘opt out’ system as in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The new legislation took effect on 1st July 2019.
Guernsey’s Human Tissue and Transplantation (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Legislation was enacted in May 2020, which will introduce a ‘deemed consent’ or ‘opt-out’ system with the new law set to come into force on 1 January 2023, which will mean that if you haven’t recorded a decision about organ donation and you are not in an excluded group, you will be presumed to be in favour of organ and tissue donation.
Isle of Man
In October 2020, Members of the House of Keys unanimously backed the second reading of the Human Tissue and Organ Donation Bill 2020. On 20 July 2021, the Bill received Royal Assent to become an Act, moving the island one step closer to an ‘opt-out’ led approach to organ donation consent. Planning is underway to implement the new law, which will not come into force until a commencement date has been set. The Isle of Man will continue to operate an ‘opt-in’ consent system until such time and the date for the new law to come into force has been set but is expected to be in 2023.
Registering for Organ Donation:
People Can Register their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Website at: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/register-your-decision/
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer