Press Release

Micheál Martin, Minister for Health and Children, Launches 2004 Organ Donor Awareness Week

Minister Martin today (30 March 2004), launched the 2004 Organ Donor Awareness Week on behalf of the Irish Donor Network.

The Minister announced that he was delighted to be providing of a grant of €350,000 in order to continue to support this years Donor Awareness Week campaign.

The Minister stated that “The annual Donor Awareness Campaign is a very important event in the calendar for the Irish Health Service which highlights the need for organ donors generally and makes a very important contribution to the National Health Strategy´s commitment to develop organ transplantation services with a view to increasing donation and utilization rates.”

“The role of the voluntary sector in the area of donor recruitment is clearly highlighted by the Donor Awareness Campaign. The proactive role taken by the constituent members of the Irish Donor Network in this area is greatly appreciated and admired.”

This year´s Organ Donor Awareness Week runs from the 3rd to the 10th of April. Branches right round the country will be active in fund-raising through the sale of the Forget-Me-Not emblem and donor card key rings and also in promoting the carrying of a donor card.

The Irish Kidney Association has written to all Members of the Dáil and Seanad requesting that they sign a Declaration supporting organ donation and transplantation in Ireland.

Ireland has traditionally had a high rate of organ donation and this is due, in no small part, to the annual Donor Awareness Campaign.

Notwithstanding Ireland´s traditionally high rate of organ donation, there is evidence of a declining trend in donor numbers worldwide. The Minister advised that “Against this background, the Donor Awareness Campaign takes on added significance.”

The success of the donor awareness programme is reflected in the fact that in 2003 148 kidneys, 22 hearts and 70 livers were retrieved from a total of 86 donors. Lungs donated by Irish donors also supported the provision in the United Kingdom of lung transplants for Irish patients. The Lung Transplant Programme is in the process of being repatriated and the Taoiseach formally opened the National Lung Transplant Unit at the Mater Hospital yesterday. That event represented the latest in a series of milestones on the road to the provision of an Irish-based Lung Transplant Programme.

It is impossible to talk about the need for maximizing opportunities for organ donation without recognising the generosity of the families who have to make the decision to help others at a very difficult time. They have the consolation of knowing that their generosity gives others a second chance at life. I would like to wish the 2004 Donor Awareness Campaign every success in encouraging people to Give the Gift of Life.