‘Opt-out’ organ donation Bill to go to Cabinet next year, says Donnelly

More than 200 transplant carried out this year despite difficulties posed by Covid-19

Legislation which would change organ donation to an "opt-out" system will be brought to Cabinet early in the new year, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed.

The Human Tissue Bill, which has been in the works and delayed several times since 2016, allows for an opt-out rather than opt-in clause for organ donation after death.

It would be assumed that a person has consented to organ donation unless he or she has chosen to opt out. The final consent of the person’s family is required before donation occurs and this would remain the case.*

You can express your willingness to become an organ donor by carrying a donor card or having your wishes noted on your driving licence.


Mr Donnelly said the Bill would be a “very important piece of legislation and it is a priority for me. It is my intention to publish the Bill as early as possible in 2022.” A total of 203 organ donation transplants were carried out in 2021 despite the “incredibly difficult” circumstances of Covid-19, according to HSE clinical lead organ donation Dr Catherine Motherway.

This was an increase of 13 on last year, but down on the 274 transplants carried out in 2019.

A total of 203 organs were transplanted in 2021, 137 kidney, 34 liver, 20 lung, 10 heart and two pancreas. There were 64 deceased donors and 35 living donors.

Dr Motherway said organ transplant teams had worked through the pandemic despite the difficulties involved.

“Intensive care, theatre, medical and nursing staff across our donor hospitals and transplant centres continue with true professionalism to support organ donation and transplantation,” she said.

“Organ donation saves and changes lives. It is an honour to be able to work with families who time and time again find it in themselves when faced with the sudden death of a loved one to think of others. We cannot express enough our gratitude. In death our donors give life.”

More than 600 people are waiting for an organ transplant in Ireland. This includes patients on dialysis awaiting kidney transplants and patients waiting for lung, heart and liver transplants.

While some kidney donations can take place through the living donation programme, all other organ donations can only proceed when another life is lost.

*Article ameneded at 5.15pm on December 31st, 2021

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times