The Irish Times view on organ donation Bill: Worth the wait
Human Tissue Bill an opportunity to develop world-class organ donation service in Ireland
The system will mean that for the first time it will be presumed that a deceased person had consented to donate major organs, including kidneys, heart, lungs and liver. File photograph: iStockPhoto
A decade after organ donation advocate, the late senator Fergal Quinn, introduced a private members’ Bill on human organs and human tissue, the Government has published the Human Tissue (Transplantation, Post-Mortem, Anatomical Examination, and Public Display) Bill.
Long overdue, the primary legislation in this area has, until now, been the Anatomy Act of 1832. The Bill will repeal that Act and create a modern legislative framework of consent. While the main thrust of the Bill will be to improve organ donation rates in the Republic, it also updates the law in areas such as anatomical examination in medical education and the public display of bodies after death.
A new opt-out system for deceased organ donation is a key element of the Bill. The system will mean that for the first time it will be presumed that the deceased person had consented to donate major organs, including kidneys, heart, lungs and liver. The new system will apply unless the deceased, while still alive, had specifically stated they did not want to donate organs. As part of the change from current practice, the next-of-kin will continue to be consulted.
Without parental consent
The new legislation will also implement recommendations made by Dr Deirdre Madden in her 2006 report, in which she examined how organs and tissue were removed from deceased children without parental consent.
A welcome feature of the new Bill is approval for unrestricted altruistic kidney donation. It will bring Ireland into line with international best practice; at present, living kidney donors can donate only to a family member or a close friend.
Minister for Health Simon Harris acknowledged an opt-out system will need a number of additional measures in order to optimise organ donation rates. These include awareness campaigns, enhanced infrastructure and additional training for health professionals. For example, specialist nurses for organ donation will be needed in all hospitals that have an intensive care unit. The Government must commit to funding these additional measures to ensure the legislation brings about a substantial increase in organ donation.
After a long gestation, the new Bill is an opportunity to develop a world-class organ donation service in Ireland. A renewed momentum from legislators is now required to make this happen.