A cross-party meeting of MLAs took place on Monday to establish an all-party group on Organ Donation at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The multi-party meeting was also attended by charities who want to see organ donor numbers increase, as well as high profile campaigners including Joe Brolly and Shane Finnegan.
Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson received the endorsement of fellow MLA's to be the Chairman of this new group, which is pending formal approval by Stormont.
Addressing the meeting Mrs Dobson said:
“It is an honour to be nominated to be the Chair of this important All Party Group. I have a vision of what we can achieve together, and that is to become champions for Organ Donation both within Stormont as well as outside.
“I want to see the group actively engage with people affected by Organ Donation, transplant patients, those waiting for an organ and their families.
“We need to be far more than a behind the desk group and that is why we need to get out and listen to the views of the public and reflect those views here at Stormont.
“I am delighted to be joined in this new group by MLA's from across Stormont political parties including fellow nominated officers, Vice Chair, Conall McDevitt from the SDLP, Secretary Sue Ramsey from Sinn Fein and Treasurer Jim Wells from the DUP.
"As a group we will work very closely with the Department of Health and the Minister, the Health Committee, with the charities - including those of the Transplant Forum as well as those organisations - and individuals who are passionate about the promotion of organ donation.”
Commenting, the British Medical Association Northern Ireland said they: “Welcome the establishment of the All Party Group on Organ Donation. The All Party Group was established following a round table discussion with Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA, on a move towards a soft opt out system for organ donation.
“With less than a third of the population in Northern Ireland on the organ donation register, BMA Northern Ireland believes that a ‘soft’ opt-out system would increase organ donations, by making donation the default position from which people may opt out during their lifetime if they so wish. The BMA supports the introduction of a ‘soft’ opt out system in which relatives’ views are also taken into account.”
In conclusion Mrs Dobson thanked the British Medical Association for hosting an earlier meeting to highlight the need to increase numbers of organ donors in Northern Ireland. She said:
“I was delighted to address the meeting and give my personal experience as well as explaining the progression of my Private Members Bill to move to an Opt-Out system of Organ Donation.
“Today we have taken a further step forward in our fight to save lives and I hope, through the new All Party Group, that we can continue to increase the momentum for change in Northern Ireland. “