Legislation known as Dáithí's Law, which changes the way organ consent is granted, has come into effect in Northern Ireland.
The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) legislation sees an 'opt out' approach to organ donation, which means all adults are considered organ donors unless they state otherwise.
The move is set to increase the current number of organ donors available to people in need of a transplant. It has been named in honour of campaigning six-year-old Dáithí MacGabhann.
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.
However, 10-15 people still die each year here while waiting for an organ transplant.
Dáithí Mac Gabhann has been on the waiting list for a heart transplant since 2018 and over the course of the last four years his family have campaigned for the opt-out policy to be adopted as a way to help people like Dáithí.
Dáithí’s father, Máirtín, said: “As a father, there are few moments in life that can compare to the pride and joy I feel for my son Dáithí on this momentous day.
"After years of tireless campaigning and fighting for this cause, Dáithí's Law is finally going to be in effect. It's hard for me to put into words just how much this means to our family and to the organ donation community.
“The journey to get to this point has been long and exhausting. We have made countless sacrifices along the way, and there were times when we felt like giving up.
"But we persevered, because we knew that this was a cause worth fighting for.
“Today is a day of celebration. It is a day that we will remember for the rest of our lives. But it is also a day to reflect on the hard work and dedication that went into making this happen. We have fought tooth and nail to get to this point, and we have done it with love, determination, and a sense of purpose.
"We plan to continue to spread the message of Dáithí's Law and continue to raise awareness of organ donation at any opportunity.
“Today is a day of hope, of love, and of triumph."
Permanent Secretary Peter May said today is a "hugely significant landmark day for organ donation in Northern Ireland.
"More than 140 people are waiting for transplant 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.
"We know that the vast majority of people here say that they support organ donation in principle, but many people still haven’t got round to signing the NHS Organ Donor Register or telling their families.
"By switching to an opt out system, the hope is that this makes it easier for families to support donation. “We have already seen increased awareness, discussion and support for organ donation during the law change process and I hope that in time, this will lead to more people saying yes to donation and saving even more lives.”
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