Opt-out organ donation system on the way

Consent presumed unless otherwise stated
  • Deborah Condon

The Government is moving ahead with legislation to provide for an opt-out system of consent for organ donation.

Currently, Ireland operates an opt-in system of organ donation, which means people have to specifically state that they wish to donate their organs in the event of their death. The final decision is left with their next-of-kin.

An opt-out system means that organ donation is presumed unless people specifically choose not to donate. 

This opt-out system forms part of the Human Tissue Bill, which aims to regulate the removal, retention, storage, use and disposal of human tissue from deceased people.

The Government has now approved the drafting of this Bill and a public consultation is to be held before the end of the summer.

"The Human Tissue Bill will give effect to the Programme for Partnership Government commitment to propose legislation for family consent and an opt-out register for organ donation. Under this system, consent will be deemed unless the person has, while alive, registered their wish not to become an organ donor after death. It is proposed that the next of kin will always be consulted prior to removing any organ," explained the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.

He said that organ donation is one of the most selfless acts a person can undertake, however Ireland ‘needs to change its attitude to organ donation and adopt an opt-out system'.

"I want to see a time where organ donation is the norm when people pass away in circumstances in which donation is a possibility. An opt-out system of consent for organ donation and accompanying publicity campaign will raise awareness among individuals and encourage discussion among families of their intentions in relation to organ donation.

"In this way, individuals can increase the chances that their organs might be utilised after their death, and can ensure that those left behind will have the satisfaction of knowing that their wishes were carried through," Minister Harris noted.

Meanwhile, the Bill will also ensure that no hospital post-mortem examination will be carried out, and no tissue retained for any purpose, without authorisation.

"The Human Tissue Bill will ensure that the principles of protection of the bodily integrity of the individual before and after death, respect for the autonomy of the individual and the rights of the bereaved, and promotion of the public health benefits of post-mortem examination and tissue donation are enshrined in legislation," Minister Harris added.


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