The Government has approved the creation of an opt-out system for organ donation.
Minister for Health Simon Harris brought a memo to the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday seeking consent to draft the general scheme of a Human Tissue Bill which seeks to increase the number of organs made available to doctors.
The aim of the legislation is to regulate the removal, retention, storage, use and disposal of human tissue from deceased persons.
The opt-out clause will mean that families retain the right to intervene and stop the organs of their loved ones being donated.
Mr Harris said the measure has the potential to transform organ donation in the State.
“This has been long-talked about in this country and today we take a step closer to it becoming a reality,” he said.
“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.”
Such a system has been promised for several years. The decision by Cabinet is the first legislative step in the process.
Mr Harris has requested a period of consultation before drafting the heads of the Bill for Cabinet in the autumn.
The Human Tissue Bill will also ensure no hospital post-mortem examination can be carried out and no tissue retained without authorisation.
This was a recommendation made by Dr Deirdre Madden in a report presented to former minister for health Mary Harney in 2005.
The proposed Bill by Mr Harris will ensure such proposals are placed on a statutory basis.