A 16-year-old Ballycastle girl who has had three liver transplants is campaigning to get organ donation on the school curriculum.
Lucia Mee was speaking after an event at Stormont on Tuesday aimed at encouraging people to talk openly about the issue in a bid to boost the number of organs donated and save more lives.
Lucia has spoken extensively about the subject at her school Cross and Passion College but wants the message to go further.
She added: “I think it should be part of the curriculum in subjects like RE or biology or citizenship. My school’s been really supportive and I’ve spoken at assembly about organ donation. But it’s not the easiest subject for people to talk about, so if it was talked about at school it might help change that and that could make a real difference to people’s lives.
“When you talk to donor families, they say it was easier to decide to donate when they’d talked about it with loved ones before hand.”
Before her third transplant earlier this year, Lucia set up a ‘Live Loudly Donate Proudly’ Facebook page in a bid to urge people to become organ donors, and to discuss it with family members. Lucia has not let her condition, brought on by autoimmune hepatitis when she was eight, hold her back and has won plenty of medals at the Transplant Games.
An organ donation campaign was launched recently at Stormont to encourage families throughout Northern Ireland to sit down with their loved ones on December 11 and discuss their wishes on organ donation.
Campaigners say 84 per cent of people in Northern Ireland support organ donation, but statistics show that 40 per cent of families here do not consent to the donation of their loved one’s organs, when faced with the choice. This compares to a family refusal rate of only two per cent in Belgium, the leading organ donation rate country in the world.
The push to get people to talk about organ donation is, campaigners say, because while seventy eight percent of people agreed in a recent survey that it is important to discuss their donation wishes with their family and/or friends, a common reason for families refusing to give consent is that the potential donor’s family was not aware of their loved one’s wishes.
Speaking about this year’s family discussion day Shane Finnegan, Co- Chair of the Opt for Life group said family consent is a “key element in the organ donation process”.
Details can be found at www.organdonationni.info