Organ donation opt-out system should be in place by end 2018

650 people on waiting list for transplants; 30,000 deaths annually but only 100 donors

Minister for Health Simon Harris: said he wanted to “change the culture”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Health Simon Harris: said he wanted to “change the culture”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


An opt-out system for organ donation will be in place by the end of next year, Minister for Health Simon Harris pledged as he introduced a public consultation process on Monday.

The six-week consultation period, which ends on October 9th, will inform the drafting of the Human Tissue Bill to ensure “we put in place the best possible scheme to ensure maximum organ donation”, Mr Harris said.

He wants to hear from the public, medical people and interest groups.

The consultation will inform the drafting of the Human Tissue Bill, which will regulate the removal, retention, storage, use and disposal of human tissue from deceased people and provide an opt-out system.

The Minister said a major public-awareness campaign would be undertaken when the legislation was being enacted.

Mr Harris said Ireland is one of just four EU countries, along with Germany, the Netherlands and the UK (with the exception of Wales) not to have an opt-out system in place.

In this system, “you are presumed to have given consent for your organs to be used unless you’ve otherwise opted out on a register”.

Record transplants

Last year saw the second highest number of transplants, at 280, including a record 50 living kidney donors and 161 organ transplants up to the end of July this year. There were 294 transplants in 2013.

Last year there were 172 kidney transplants, 58 liver transplants, 35 lung transplants and 15 heart transplants, and two pancreatic transplants this year.

Mr Harris said he wanted to “change the culture”. By putting in place an opt-out system, “we are encouraging all of us as citizens to have that conversation with our loved ones, with our relatives to make organ donation the norm”.

The consultation process was “not dawdling”, he said. This is the first attempt to legislate and issues such as “bodily autonomy” had to be dealt with properly.

Prof Jim Egan, director of Organ Donation and Transplantation Ireland, said there were 650 people on the waiting list for transplants. He said that of 30,000 deaths annually in the State there might only be 100 donors.