Proposals soon for 'opt-out' donor system

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Health Minister James Reilly has said he will bring forward legislative proposals shortly to allow for a new 'opt-out' organ donation system.

The new Government's proposals to change the consent system for organ donations for transplantation comes amid concerns about falling donation numbers and less availability of organs for transplantation.

The opt-out system would mean that someone who has died would be automatically presumed to consent to their organs being harvested after death unless they had specifically stated otherwise.

At present, people have to 'opt-in' to the donation system through carrying a donor card, or else their families give permission for their organs to be used for possible transplantation.

The Irish Kidney Association has expressed reservations about the Government's plans. It says the best way to improve organ donation is to have skilled medical staff in hospitals who can convince grieving families about the benefits of donation.

The HSE has just announced the establishment of a National Office for Organ Donation and Transplantation.

It says the the office will endeavour to focus and coordinate services in order to improve organ donation in Ireland and underpin the quality of outcomes for patients following organ donation in line with the European Directive on Organ Transplantation.

The Minister, in a Dail reply last Thursday, said his Department is currently preparing legislative proposals on the donation and use of human organs for transplantation.

Dr Reilly said these would be included in a Human Tissue Bill which will also meet the recommendations of the Madden Report on post mortem practices and procedures.

"My Department is working to finalise the proposals for me as soon as possible," the Minister said.

He added that good coordination at hospital level and counselling arrangements for relatives are significant factors in achieving high organ donation rates.

"I am therefore also considering what practices and organisational changes could further improve donation rates in this country.

Organ Donor Awareness Week will take place this year from April 2 to 9.


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