South Tyneside families call for MPs to back new organ donor bill

Gillian Lyon
Gillian Lyon

Two South Tyneside families who allowed their loved ones organs to be donated to save the lives of strangers are calling on MPs to get behind a bill which would introduce an opt-out system.

Jack Leggett, nine, and Gillian Lyon, 42, both become lifesavers following their untimely deaths.

Jack Leggett

Jack Leggett

Holy Trinity pupil Jack died of a brain tumour in 2013 after a short battle, while Gillian died in 2012 after suffering a bleed on the brain.

Tomorrow, MPs will meet in Parliament where they will have the opportunity to make history by voting in favour of a new Bill that will introduce an ‘opt-out’ system in England, potentially saving thousands of lives.

This means people will be automatically registered as an organ donor, unless they state otherwise.

Gillian’s mam, Sandra Burn, of Sunderland Road, South Shields, said: “I think everyone should be organ donors. I was out not so long a go and a woman said to me, I don’t know how you could donate your daughter’s organs - I was devastated.

When you die, your organs are no good to you, but they can help give someone else the gift of life.

Susan Clarkson

“But then I thought, if it was her daughter who was in need of an organ I’m sure she would accept it. And if you are willing to take an organ, then you should be willing to give one.

“You can’t take your organs with you - but you can help save someone’s life.

“This opt-out system should have been brought in ages ago - how many lives are being lost because they are dragging their heels. MPs need to stand up and get behind this.

“But until they bring it in, I just hope people continue to sign up to become donors. They can do it Gillian’s name, their loved one’s name. We just need more people to sign up.”

Jack’s mam Susan Clarkson, of Primrose Avenue, South Shields, also backed the move to an opt-out system. She said: “I think it’s a long time coming. I think the opt-out system should have been in place a long time ago.

“Just think of how many more lives could be saved.

“We know ourselves, by us agreeing to donate Jack’s organs, just how important it is. To know out son has saved lives, it doesn’t take the pain of losing Jack away completely, but it does bring some comfort.

“When you die, your organs are no good to you, but they can help give someone else the gift of life.

“I’m 100% behind the opt-out system and would urge people, if they haven’t done so already, to become an organ donor and to let their families know of their wishes.

“This Bill needs to be passed.”

MAJORITY BACKING OPT OUT SYSTEM

A poll of over 2,000 people by the British Heart Foundation found 77% of people are in favour of an opt-out system. Of those who would not support a change in the law, nearly half were put off by concerns they would not be able to opt out, or it would be difficult to do so. The charity says this highlights a lack of public awareness and confusion about the proposed new system which would allow any person opposed to donating their organs to opt out.

Figures, released by the BHF also reveal a lack of awareness around the urgency of organ donation, with nearly half of people in the North East (49%) underestimating the number of people on the organ transplant list in the UK (which last year peaked at 6,388)1 and a quarter (26%) underestimating the number of people who died last year whilst on the waiting list for an organ (a total of 457 people).

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “There is a desperate shortage of organs in the UK and introducing an opt-out system in England will better reflect the views of the general public and give hope to those currently waiting for a transplant they so desperately need.

“We are urging everyone in the North East to encourage their local MP to attend parliament this Friday to debate a Bill that could save lives.”

Following the death of 14-week-old Miley Turbitt in 2012 - her family, backed by the Gazette, launched In Miley’s Memory.

The campaign not only saw the number of people in South Tyneside who became organ donors rise by 2,500 - it also called for an opt-out system to be brought in with a petition delivered to Downing Street.

In Wales, an opt-out system has been in place since December 2015, and last year Scotland announced plans to move to a soft opt-out system.

To become an organ donor visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call You can call us on 0300 123 23 23.