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Organ donation medics relay fears over ‘opt-out’ law

In a submission to the Department obtained by MI following a Freedom of Information request, Clinical Leads for Organ Donation and Group Organ Donation Nurse Managers stated that “at best, legislation is unlikely to change organ donation rates”.

“At worst, legislation that fundamentally changes the consent process (and the ethos underpinning organ donation as being an altruistic ‘gift’) could lead to an undermining of trust in both organ donation as a whole and in the intensive care clinicians caring for patients at the bedside. This could, ultimately, even lead to a reduction in organ donation rates.”

The document, dated August 2017, was submitted by 11 consultants and nurse managers appointed by the HSE in 2015 and 2016 to address the lack of designated organ donation professionals in adult critical care areas nationwide and the lack of training of healthcare providers in organ donation. They describe themselves as working “at the coalface of organ donation”.

They say the factors that lead to an increase in organ donation are “well known” and include the appointment of key organ donation personnel with a commitment to organ donation in every ICU nationally; training of ICU staff in all aspects of organ donation; a national organ donation audit; and a funding model whereby hospitals supporting organ donation are reimbursed appropriately. These actions should currently take a higher priority to enacting legislation, according to the submission.

The submission noted that “in Northern Ireland, there are 13 specialist nurses in organ donation for a population of 1.8 million, whereas in the Republic, we have 11 similar positions (five National Procurement Service Co-ordinators and six Organ Donation Nurse Managers) for a population of 4.8 million”.

The Programme for A Partnership Government committed to creating an opt-out register for organ donation before the end of 2017.

A Department of Health spokesperson said that HSE Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) supports the introduction of an opt-out system. It said the majority of responses to the public consultation expressed support for, or no objection to, an opt-out system.

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