Families back organ donation ‘opt-out’ changes

The family of Gary Robertson have backed moves to make organ donation an 'opt-out' system.
The family of Gary Robertson have backed moves to make organ donation an 'opt-out' system.

Three South Tyneside families who allowed the organs of their loved ones to be donated have welcomed the introduction of an ‘opt-out’ system.

New laws came into effect in Wales last week allowing doctors to take people’s organs without explicit consent. Those not wishing to donate their organs now have to opt out of the donors register.

Emma Robertson.

I strongly believe we should have an opt-out system here in England. Once you’re gone that’s it, you don’t need them but there could be someone out there that does.

To date only 3% have.

The families of Gary Robertson, Gillian Lyon and Jack Leggett, have welcomed the move and are hoping lawmakers in England will follow suit.

The move is also being backed by Sharon Eckert, who launched an organ donor drive in South Tyneside in memory of her little girl Miley Turbitt, who died aged 12 weeks, when a donor heart failed to be found in time.

She said: “This is the best news I’ve heard in a long time. I’m just really pleased Wales has gone ahead with this and I hope it will be introduced everywhere else soon.

“I’d like to think our campaign and Miley have also had a helping hand in this.”

Following Miley’s death in 2012, Sharon launched the Gazette-backed In Miley’s Memory campaign. It led to 2,000 people in South Tyneside adding their names to the organ donor register in 11 months.

Sandra Burn, from Sunderland Road, South Shields, allowed her daughter Gillian Lyon’s organs to be donated following her death aged 42, in 2012 after suffering a bleed on the brain.

That decision saved the life of a woman in Leeds.

She said: “I always try to promote organ donation whenever I can. I think what Wales is doing with the opt-out system is the best thing that has been introduced. I am all in favour of it.

“As a family we were given a say as to whether Gillian’s organs should be donated, but Gillian had already made that decision before she died by signing up to become an organ donor, and it would have been wrong for us to go against her wishes.

“It is hard, and I understand that, but it is the best feeling in the world to know a loved one has helped to save someone’s life.”

Emma Robertson, from Fuschia Gardens, Hebburn, made the decision to allow her husband Gary’s organs to be donated after she knew how passionate he was about organ donation.

The 39-year-old died on his birthday in 2012 after suffering a brain aneurysm.

The mum-of-three said: “What Wales is doing is fantastic and I think England should follow.

“We are all immensely proud of Gary for being an organ donor and that pride is something which brings us great comfort.

“I strongly believe we should have an opt-out system here in England. Once you are gone that’s it, you don’t need them – but there could be someone out there that does.

“Losing Gary broke my heart but knowing he has helped to save people’s lives, I really couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Alfie Leggett and Susan Clarkson, from Primrose Avenue, South Shields, made the brave decision to donate their little boy’s organs 
after he lost his fight with a brain tumour in 2013, aged nine.

Jack was only nine years old but the decision the couple made went on to save people’s lives.

His dad said: “You can’t put into words how devastated we were when Jack died but donating his organs was the right thing to do.

“Hard as it is, once you are gone, you are gone and if you can save someone’s life by donating your organs then that it the greatest gift you can give to someone.

“It is great what Wales is doing and I hope we will follow.

“When someone dies it is an emotional time, but knowing our Jack has helped to save someone’s life, it does bring real comfort to you.”