Harris given go-ahead to draft new organ donation laws

The proposed new system will see the introduction of an opt-out system for organ donation

The government has formally approved plans to introduce an opt-out system for organ donation.

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris has been given the green light to start drafting legislation to put the new system into effect.

The proposals would overhaul Ireland’s donation system – meaning living people would have to opt out of the organ donation system, instead of opting in.

Minister Harris said he will hold a public consultation on the plans over the summer - and urged the public to make their voices heard on the issue.

The Human Tissue Bill will aim to regulate and provide general conditions for the organ removal and donation system.

Minister Harris said the bill will also include rules governing family consent, adding that it is proposed that next of kin will always be consulted prior to the removal of any organ.

“Organ donation is among the most selfless acts we can bestow upon another person,” he said.

“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.” 

He said he hopes the legislation will lead to a system whereby “organ donation is the norm when people pass away in circumstances in which donation is a possibility.” 

The bill also ensures that no hospital post-mortem examination can be carried out – and no tissue retained for any purpose – without authorisation.

The minister said the post-mortem measure was a key recommendation of the Madden Report on Post-Mortem Practices and Procedures adding that the changes have been a “long time coming.”

“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,” he said.