People urged to 'HAVE THE CHAT' about organ donation


The Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging everyone in Northern Ireland to ‘have a wee chat’ about their organ donation wishes as part of a major new campaign aimed at increasing the number of transplants.

The initiative has launched on December 11, a special day established by charity Opt For Life Foundation to spark conversations between families and loved ones around their wishes on organ donation.

Dr Catherine Coyle, PHA Lead for Organ Donation said: “While 84% of people in Northern Ireland support organ donation, statistics reveal that only 51% of families here agree to donation going ahead if they are unaware of their loved one’s wishes.

“We need more people in Northern Ireland to talk about organ donation to increase the number of lifesaving transplants. People are dying every year because some families are not talking about donation.

“Nine people died last year waiting for an organ and there are approximately 140 people currently on the transplant waiting list in Northern Ireland.

“We are urging everyone to have a ‘wee chat’ with their loved ones about organ donation so should the worst happen, they’ll know your wishes and it’ll be easier for them to give approval for organ donation.

“People don’t generally like talking about death, but in this case, you will also be talking about saving lives.”

One person who has felt the full impact that organ donation can have on their life is Orla Smyth from Belfast who underwent two kidney transplants.

Orla had renal failure and waited a number of years for a kidney transplant. Following an unsuccessful transplant and several years on dialysis, she finally received a successful transplant in 2007.

Orla said: “When I was waiting on the transplant I was completely dependent on the hospital, my family, my husband and my friends, but the greatest thing was the fear of the unknown.

“I feel truly grateful and blessed to have been given this kidney; it’s the greatest gift. I have been given a whole new world and a whole new mindset. I don’t feel dependent any more. I’m not afraid anymore.

“I will be forever grateful to the family who gave permission for their loved one’s organs to be donated.”

An organ donor could save up to nine lives and most people would accept an organ if they needed one, yet people are not talking about their wishes with family and friends.

The PHA’s new campaign aims to encourage people to make sure their family know about their wishes. If you die in circumstances where organ donation is possible, those closest to you will be asked to give their consent. Knowing your wishes can make this difficult time less stressful for your loved ones.

Shane Finnegan organ recipient and founder of the Opt For Life Foundation said: “December 11th has become a very important date in the organ donation calendar in Northern Ireland and with the Department’s commitment to this new programme, 2019 represents the start of an integrated campaign that has the potential to save many lives.

“Research has found that families who are aware of their loved ones wishes are more likely to donate their organs should the situation arise and this initiative is targeted at bringing about behavioural change and encouraging people to  sit down together, have the conversation and consider how organ donation can completely transform, people’s lives.

“Families are being encouraged to share that they have had the conversation and call on others to do the same by sharing their pictures using #havethechat and #Dec11TellYourLovedOnes.”


If you want to be an organ donor, join the register and tell your family and friends as soon as possible because we know that families are much more likely to agree to donation going ahead if they know it is what their loved one wanted. If you haven’t already signed the register or would like more information, please take the time to visit which is packed full of information and resources.