Opt-out consent system for organ donation

The Government has approved the preparation of the General Scheme and Heads of a Human Tissue Bill, giving the Minister for Health, Simon Harris the green light to move ahead with legislation to provide for an opt-out system of consent for organ donation.

A Public Consultation will be held before the end of the summer.

The Bill will:

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  • Regulate the removal, retention, storage, use and disposal of human tissue from deceased persons
  • Provide general conditions for the removal, donation and use of organs and tissues from deceased and living persons for the purposes of transplantation
  • Provide for an opt-out system of consent for organ donation and for an associated register

Minister Harris said “The Human Tissue Bill will give effect to the Programme for Partnership Government commitment to propose legislation for family consent and an opt-out register for organ donation.  Under this system, consent will be deemed unless the person has, while alive, registered their wish not to become an organ donor after death.  It is proposed that the next of kin will always be consulted prior to removing any organ.”

Stressing the importance of organ donation, Minister Harris said “Organ donation is among the most selfless acts we can bestow upon another person.  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.

“Ireland needs to change its attitude to organ donation, and adopt an opt-out system of consent for organ donation.  I want to see a time where organ donation is the norm when people pass away in circumstances in which donation is a possibility.”

The Human Tissue Bill will also implement the key recommendation of the Madden Report on Post-Mortem Practices and Procedures that no hospital post-mortem examination should be carried out and no tissue retained for any purpose whatsoever without authorisation.

Minister Harris said “The Human Tissue Bill will ensure that the principles of protection of the bodily integrity of the individual before and after death; respect for the autonomy of the individual and the rights of the bereaved; and promotion of the public health benefits of post-mortem examination and tissue donation are enshrined in legislation.”

The Madden Report sets out the general facts in relation to paediatric post-mortem practice in Ireland from 1970 to 2000, the way in which information was communicated to parents of deceased children in relation to post-mortem examinations, and how these practices might be improved upon for the future.