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Organ Donation – When is a donor a donor?

February 13th, 2009 · 5 Comments · Social Policy

This image shows a Intensive Care Unit.
Image via Wikipedia

And now for something completely different but very very important.

The government are currently holding a public consultation on the matter of organ donation at the moment. There was a conference on it in Dublin today and it got someone in the Civil Service (waves to all Maman Poulet’s gov.ie based readers) to thinking that there maybe a few bloggers and readers out there who are interested in the issues that are up for discussion. So an email to me later and here we are. I think this is perfect territory for bloggers to think/write about as it affects or can affect everyone and is not a party political issue.

The Minister said that she strongly encourages all members of the public and any interest groups to submit their views on this important issue.

“I am particularly interested in hearing people’s views on ways of increasing the number of organs donated for transplantation. Transplantation is an established and very successful treatment which has brought a new lease of life to many people, but its success has meant that demand exceeds supply. Organ donation is a vital life-saving treatment but it entirely dependent on the generosity of others.â€?

The Minister said that she would encourage more organ donation which would ultimately lead to an increase in the number of lives saved.

“I would also like to encourage everyone to carry an organ donor card, and most importantly, discuss their decision on organ donation with their loved ones�said the Minister.

Currently organ donation in Ireland is voluntary – that is someone donates their organs when they die with the consent of family members (that is if someone asks and conditions are suitable) with or without a donor card. There are over 600 people waiting on a donor organ at the moment and organ availability has been hit in recent times by cultural changes and scares over donation and confusion of retention of organs etc. Also it’s not always possible for a doctor or nurse to ask someone and sometimes we have not discussed our wishes with our next of kin. I also wondering if the decrease in numbers of road deaths has an impact on the numbers of organs available?

The consultation is discussing a number of options with regards to the future organisation of organ donation in the state.

Option A Opt-out – sometimes called presumed consent

The person is presumed to have consented to donate his or her organs after death unless he or she has specified otherwise.

Option B Opt-in – sometimes called explicit consent

The person can decide in advance to consent to donate his or her organs, or to nominate someone to make the decision on his/her behalf after death. Where the deceased has not made a decision his or her family may do so.

Option C – Mandated choice and required request

People would be required by law to specify whether or not they wish to donate their organs after death. This could be done at specified times such as when applying for a State service or benefit. The provision of the service or benefit would not be dependent on the choice made. If a person is a potential organ donor, “required request� means that the person’s wishes, or their family’s, must be ascertained before death, for example in a hospital A & E Department or Intensive Care Unit.

There is a very helpful/challenging list of questions prepared by the Department for the public to consider on the matter. I don’t think they want us to answer them all but it might help those of you considering putting your thoughts on paper/blog/screen.

So what do you think? Should we leave things alone? Or should everyone be seen as a donor and family members should only be able to stop donation in certain circumstances. Or could we register for donation when we pay tax or claim a benefit. Is there another way of doing it altogether?

You can submit your opinions to tissue_legislation@health.gov.ie or by post to: Tissue Legislation Consultation, Department of Health & Children, R. 324, Hawkins House, Hawkins Street, Dublin 2. If you would like to discuss it maybe you could leave a comment here or even write about the issues on your own blog and ping me to let me know you’ve posted? I’ll put all the links/comments together for the Department so they can read it.

The closing date is February 28th 2009.

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5 Comments so far

  • Ciarán

    I know nothing about the area but trust the very clever Kieran Healy when he says that laws don’t make much difference to organ procurement: it’s more likely that the investment in resources for procurement does the trick. He has a good review of the European regimes there too.

  • The Sexy Pedestrian

    Everyone should be an automatic donor with an opt out option. If someone is determined to take their precious organs six feet under, fair enough, but the number of people I’ve spoken to who are for organ donation but just can’t be arsed finding and carrying a card is unbelievable.

    Plus, if you do get run over or whatnot, it’s a bitch of a situation to have to put someone’s parents, husband or wife in, “So, I know you’re grieving, but would you mind if we just harvested a few organs from your loved one, it’ll only take a tick…”
    Just whip ’em out and give them to whoever needs them!

  • Fiona

    Here’s a piece I did for the paper on the subject: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2009/0206/1233796244139.html
    Not to be flagging my own work or anything (ahem), but it helps to hear some of the experts pointing to problems in our system that don’t necessarily relate to issues of consent. Personally, I’m for presumed consent, but it won’t solve everything.

  • rosie

    Option A, presumed consent. The Sexy Pedestrian couldn’t have put it better (above). Just to add to his/her case – I was a good citizen and signed my Donor Card ages ago. Now, if I could just remember where it is……(you know how it is, you change wallets, and not everything makes the move). Meanwhile, I’ve told my family I couldn’t give a toss where my organs end up (or rather, I could – ideally making life good again for someone still left on the planet). But it would still be better if they could be spared the trauma The Sexy Pedestrian talks about in the event of my untimely passing. Much better for the doctors to know it’s ok to go ahead without having to run the issue by the grieving rellies.

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