Sunderland MP Julie Elliott speaks of her delight after Commons backs new law on organ donation

Julie Elliott MP, left, with daughter Rebecca , centre, and sister Joan, right, after completing a walk to raise funds for Kidney Research UK in June this year.
Julie Elliott MP, left, with daughter Rebecca , centre, and sister Joan, right, after completing a walk to raise funds for Kidney Research UK in June this year.

A Wearside MP whose daughter is waiting for a kidney transplant has spoken of her delight after MPs backed a change in the law on organ donations.

Ministers confirmed they would support a Private Member’s Bill tabled by Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson to introduce presumed consent in England, following the move to an opt-out system in Wales.

Julie Elliott MP

Julie Elliott MP

Among the speakers in yesterday’s House of Commons debate was Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, whose 36-year-old daughter Rebecca is on the waiting list for a new kidney.

“I am absolutely delighted that the bill has passed,” she said.

“This was Parliament at its best, where everybody from all sides came together to address an issue that will save lives.

“It was one of those rare occasions when people come together and party politics go out of the window.”

This was Parliament at its best, where everybody from all sides came together to address an issue that will save lives.

Julie Elliott MP

MPs heard around 1,000 people die every year while waiting for a transplant and England has some of the lowest rates of consent for organ donation in western Europe.

Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price told MPs it was estimated the move would secure an additional 100 donors a year, which could save an extra 200 lives.

Julie Elliott said speaking about how the family had coped with Rebecca’s illness in the debate had been an emotional experience: “I have been in tears a couple of times,” she said.

She told MPs Rebecca - a married mum-of-one - had been referred to the renal unit of the Freeman Hospital after routine blood tests showed a problem with her kidneys in October 2016.

“After Rebecca spent a week or so in hospital, it became clear that she was quite ill with significantly reduced kidney function that could at some point lead to her needing a transplant,” she said.

“To face the reality of the fragility of life is very hard at any time, but facing it for one of my children, although she is an adult, is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

“My daughter had until recently been a healthy, happy young woman. She was quite a serious runner in her spare time, and she regularly ran half-marathons and, occasionally, marathons. It is impossible to describe the shock of someone like that suddenly becoming so ill.

“When dialysis was first mentioned to us, it was a terrifying prospect, but its arrival has given Rebecca a quality of life again. She has a machine at home and links on to it every night, and for eight hours her body dialyses on it. That means that she has got some quality of life back.

“This sort of illness strikes indiscriminately, and when we attend appointments, we see everyone from very young people through to older people; we see people from all walks of life.

“It is heartbreaking seeing people with this sort of illness.”

She paid tribute to Rebecca’s employers, True Solicitors of Newcastle, for their support, and the staff at the Freeman Newcastle: “They are the essence of everything that is great about our health service. They are working under enormous pressures on their time and resources, but they always have time for us. I want to say a personal thank you to them.

“The impact on our family has been huge. You go through a period of shock, disbelief and anger.

“The emotions and journey you go through are like a rollercoaster, because we have to deal not just with the direct impact of what is happening medically to Rebecca, but with the emotional impact of seeing that what is happening to her might mean my daughter might not be there when I am still here. That is not something any parent ever wants to consider.

“For me, as a mother, my natural instinct has always been to make things better for my children —that is what we all do. Rebecca is always going to be the baby I gave birth to 36 years ago; you love that child instantly and unconditionally, and that never changes.

“It is terrible to be in a situation where I cannot fix something that has gone terribly wrong. But what I can do, from the privileged position I have of being a Member of this place, is raise awareness and campaign for a change in the law, to that of deemed consent.

The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill will now undergo detailed scrutiny by MPs at committee stage and must then clear further stages in the Commons and undergo scrutiny in the House of Lords before becoming law