Organ donation below average in 2012

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Last year was a below average year for organ donation, according to the Irish Kidney Association (IKA).

Speaking at the launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week, which starts on March 30, IKA Chief Executive Mark Murphy noted that there had been considerable fluctuations in organ donation rates in recent years.

He said 2010 had been a record low year for donations, but 2011 had seen a record high level of donations while in 2012, the rate was down 17% on the previous year.

"I don't know of another European country, even of a similar size population, with such wide swings in deceased donor activity, " Mr Murphy said.

The annual organ donor awareness campaign is organised by the Irish Kidney Association and supported by the Irish Donor Network.

Mr Murphy said the willingness of the Irish public to donate was not the problem when it came to organ donation. Rather, it was the lack of the required infrastructure, an organ donor registry and the employment of fully trained organ donor coordinators in all our hospitals.

"This is proven by the top 10 European donating countries that have identified and invested in infrastructure to achieve 30 donors per million of population successfully and affordably." Ireland's donation rate is 20 per million.

Mr Murphy stressed that the proposed change in the designation of our organ donation consent system from informed consent to presumed consent would not necessarily increase our current rate of organ donation.

"Nowhere in Europe does 'presumed consent' actually take place in practice. Regardless of legislation, they all have come to realise it is not a practical system. The relatives are always consulted and can veto any organ donation process."

The IKA said it welcomed the call by the National Organ Procurement Service for an audit of activity on potential organ donors in hospitals which would identify where improvements might be made and address the 'unpredictability' from year to year.

Deceased organ donors numbers were 78 last year, down from the record  93 in 2011.

Thanks to the 78 deceased donors and their families, 206 transplant operations took place in Ireland in 2012. Three of the deceased donors were non heart-beating donors/cardiac death donors, following from the first of these donors the year before.

The IKA said the 131 deceased donor kidney transplants were complemented by a further 32 living donor kidney transplants, and a further three Irish patients received specialist living donor transplants in the UK.

The total of 166 kidney transplants last year was above the five-year average and was due to the increase in living donors. Mr Murphy said, however, that living donation needed to remain complementary to deceased donation, and was not its replacement.

At 50, the number of livers transplanted were slightly less than the five-year average of 54.2. Heart transplantation was well above average with 10 transplants being performed in 2012, up from six in 2011.

Lung transplantation showed the largest increase last year, with a record 14 transplants.

This was 75% more than the eight transplanted in 2011 and double the five-year average of seven. A further six lung transplants were conducted in the UK on behalf of Irish patients. In total, 20 Irish patients received transplanted lungs last year.

There are currently 1,828 people in Ireland receiving dialysis treatment. In 2012 the number of patients with End Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD) grew by 45 or just over 1% in the year.

Organ Donor Awareness Week also serves as a fundraising exercise for the Irish Kidney Association.

Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the IKA LoCall 1890 543639 or Freetext the word DONOR to 50050. Website -  

It is now possible to store an organ donor card, the 'ecard'on Smart mobile phones. Simply search for 'Donor ECard' at the IPhone Store or Android Market Place.

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