Orla Tinsley documentary led to surge in donor card requests

Public response to programme ‘not seen in a decade’, says kidney association

There were more than 5,000 requests for organ donor cards in the three days following an RTÉ documentary featuring cystic fibrosis campaigner Orla Tinsley.

The Irish Kidney Association confirmed the spike followed Orla Tinsley: Warrior, which aired on RTÉ One on Monday. It was followed directly afterwards with an audience discussion on the Claire Byrne Live programme.

The Irish Kidney Association said requests for donor cards came “via free text” and requests to the association’s website. It said many individual requests were for multiples of donor cards.

The organisation also received many further requests via email and by phone to its headquarters.


Irish Kidney Association chief executive Mark Murphy said that "on a normal day" the association receives between 20 and 50 requests for organ donor cards.

“The public’s interest in organ donation has dramatically spiked since CF campaigner Orla Tinsley’s documentary was aired on Monday,” he said. “Such a level of public response has not been seen for almost a decade.

“Orla’s courage has moved the public in such a powerful and visceral way to support organ donation.

“This gives hope to the 600 or more people on transplant waiting lists and their families and demonstrates, once again, how powerful individual stories shared by people who have been touched by organ failure and organ donation can capture the public’s empathy.

“We hope that the public will continue to have that vital discussion about organ donation with their loved ones and let their wishes be known.”

The documentary was filmed over 14 months in New York and charted Ms Tinsley’s struggle while her cystic fibrosis worsened as she awaited a life-saving double lung transplant, which she finally secured following a number of false alarms.

Members of the public can request an organ donor card texting DONOR to 50050, or via the Irish Kidney Association website www.ika.ie.

The “digital organ donor card” is available from the Google playstore or iTunes. “Your wishes can also be recorded when applying for the new format drivers’ licence and code 115 will be put on your new licence,” said Mr Murphy.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter