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Ongoing concern about format of Human Tissue Bill

By Catherine Reilly - 20th Mar 2023

human tissue bill

Ongoing concern has been expressed at an expert clinical group about the potential for the current format of the Human Tissue Bill to negatively impact organ donation.

At a meeting on 2 December of the HSE’s national organ donation and transplantation advisory group (NODTAG), Dr Alan Gaffney, Intensive Care Consultant at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, “noted that the way the Bill is currently drafted there is a risk it will decrease donation, which is at odds with the Minister’s press statements that it will increase donation. Members have been clear on this in formal correspondence.” The Bill was published on 20 December.

The Medical Independent (MI) previously reported on concerns that the inclusion of organ donation and transplant provisions in the same Bill that addresses the separate area of post-mortem practice could undermine public sentiment on donation.

In a comment to MI in December, a HSE Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) spokesperson stated: “Conflating [the] organ donation and transplant section of the Bill with post-mortem, particularly organ retention, poses a risk of undermining the ethos of organ donation as it exposes organ donation to being adversely affected should there be shortcomings in handling of human tissue in the future.”

Asked about the ongoing concerns, a Department spokesperson said the Bill was drafted following “extensive consultation” that involved the HSE, ODTI, and NODTAG.

“The Human Tissue Bill introduces a system of soft opt-out consent, which is a longstanding policy commitment of Government,” said the spokesperson. “Under the legislation, all adults in Ireland will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate on an opt-out register or are in one of the excluded groups.”

Where a person has not registered their wish to opt-out, consent will be deemed, but their family members will continue to be consulted before a donation can take place.

“While there is a possibility that the register may initially reduce the donor pool at the margins, the majority of people in Ireland are in favour of organ donation and the proposed system changes the default assumption to one that matches the prevailing public attitudes regarding organ donation.”

The Government has “committed to a communications campaign” on organ donation to support the legislation.

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