Press Release

Record Numbers of Organ Donors and Organ Transplants as Milestone of 300 transplants reached in 2017 Large Majority support planned opt-out system – Minister Harris publishes Report on the Public Consultation for a proposed Human Tissue Bill

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD today (Friday) announced a record number of organ donor and transplantation figures for 2017. This is the first year in which the milestone of 300 organ transplants has been reached.

Minister Harris said “I am heartened that 2017 marked our highest annual transplant performance and saw 308 transplants carried out in our hospitals for the first time. I congratulate our transplant teams in Beaumont Hospital, St Vincent’s University Hospital and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital on their efforts during the year. Their excellent work led to a remarkable increase in the number of transplants from 280 in 2016 to 308 this year.”

Professor Jim Egan, Director of Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland said “Our message is simple, organ donation saves lives. Thanks to the generosity of 98 families donating the organs of their loved ones, 308 people have received the gift of life through transplant surgery to date in 2017. The excellent rates of organ donation and transplantation in 2017 reflect the generosity of Irish society. Most importantly, I acknowledge the courage and generosity of families who have donated their loved one’s organs.”

The organ transplant figures for 2017 were as follows:

Beaumont Hospital – 190 kidney transplants
St Vincent’s university Hospital – 61 liver transplants & 5 pancreas transplants
Mater Misericordiae University Hospital – 36 lung transplants & 16 heart transplants

The Minister also announced a new high of 149 organ donations. This represents a significant increase on the previous record number of 127 in 2016.

Minister Harris said “Organ donation is the cornerstone on which our transplantation services are built. Without these acts of extreme kindness, we cannot develop our transplantation programmes. Organ donation is among the most selfless gifts we can give another. I can only imagine the relief and joy brought to the over 300 organ recipients and their families and friends as they celebrated Christmas and as they look forward to the New Year with renewed hope and confidence”.

At the same time, the opportunity to give the gift of life to another through the donation of organs comes at the most tragic of times for families. The Minister thanked the 98 families of deceased donors who through their generosity gave a new lease of life to over 300 people. He also acknowledged the commitment of the staff of the National Organ Procurement Service and the Intensive Care personnel across the country, with donor organs being made available through 20 different hospitals during the year.

“I would also like to particularly thank the 51 living kidney donors this year” said the Minister. “This is another record figure (exceeding the 50 in 2016) facilitated by the enthusiastic team in Beaumont Hospital. Making such personal sacrifice and giving the gift of life to another is a truly heroic deed. I hope all living donors and the beneficiaries of their kindness are doing well and looking forward to the year ahead”.

Minister Harris also paid tribute to the successful transfer of the Pancreatic Transplant Programme from Beaumont Hospital to St Vincent’s University Hospital with 5 pancreas transplants carried out during the year. This brings liver and pancreas transplantation together in one hospital.

“Our record organ donation and transplantation performance in 2017 can only be developed further through the donation of organs. I encourage everyone to consider organ donation and to share their intentions in this regard with families and loved ones. My aim is to make organ donation the norm in Ireland when people pass away in circumstances in which donation is a possibility.”

Minister Harris also announced the publication of a Report on the Public Consultation for a Proposed Human Tissue Bill. The report, which was prepared by the Department of Health, outlines the views of members of the public and stakeholders on the proposals for a Human Tissue Bill.

The consultation sought views on proposals to implement the key recommendation of the Madden Report on Post-Mortem Practices and Procedures. The public consultation report shows that the majority of participants either agreed with, or expressed no disagreement with, the proposals on post mortem practice, anatomical examination, education & training of medical professionals, and public display. The report also shows that a large majority of respondents expressed agreement with the proposed opt-out system for organ donation.

Welcoming the findings Minister Harris said, ‘’I am delighted with the level of support for the proposed soft opt-out system for organ donation with 261 completed responses received to the public consultation. Our objective is to increase organ donation and the number of transplants arising as a result. 83% of consultation respondents stated that the proposed opt-out system would encourage them to discuss their intentions regarding organ donation with their next-of-kin. It is important that we all consider our position on organ donation and that we make our views known to our loved ones. In this way we can increase the chances that our organs will be utilised after our death. I now intend to bring the draft heads of the Human Tissue Bill to Government in the first quarter of the new year’’.

Professor Egan concluded “Organ Donation Transplant Ireland welcomes the news that the public consultation in relation to Soft Opt Out legislation has been endorsed by the contributors. We know that 85% of Irish Society supports organ donation because organ donation saves lives. We look forward to the future where organ donation is seen as an ordinary event rather than an extraordinary event.”


Notes to the Editor

Read the Report on the Public Consultation for a proposed Human Tissue Bill here

Table 1: Organ Donation and Transplantation Figures 2008 – 2017












Table 2: Monthly Organ Donation and Transplantation Figures 2017








Table 3: Deceased Organ Donors per Hospital 2017 (up to 28/12/2017)














Main Provisions of General Scheme of a Human Tissue Bill

The General Scheme will provide for:
· Post-mortem practice and procedures
· Anatomical Examination/ Education and Training
· Public Display of Bodies after Death
· Organ Donation and Transplantation
· Donation of Regenerative Tissue
· Importation of Human Organs and Tissue

The proposals will:
· Provide a framework of informed consent for the following designated activities:
o Hospital Post Mortem
o Anatomy/Education & Training
o Public Display
o Organ Donation and Transplantation

Findings of the Report

1. Twenty four questions were presented to respondents on the proposals regarding:
· Post Mortem Practice;
· Anatomical Examination;
· Education and Training of Medical Professionals;
· Public Display; and
· Organ Donation and Transplantation.

2. Participants were presented with information regarding the proposals in each of these areas and asked to provide comments, opinions, or recommendations.

3. A total of 261 complete responses were submitted. Two hundred and nine of these respondents (80.1%) identified as members of the public, 36 (13.7%) identified as medical practitioners/professionals, and 27 (10.3%) identified as members of stakeholder organisations. Some respondents selected more than one option, leading to a total of greater than 100%.

4. The following is a summary of respondents’ views on the questions asked under each of the key areas:
i. Post Mortem Practice
o One hundred and seventy respondents commented on these proposals.
o Sixty-five respondents (38.2%) approved of the proposals.
o Eighty-five (50%) stated that they had no objection to the proposals.
o Six respondents (3.5%) disagreed with the proposals.
o The majority of participants indicated that they would be likely or very likely to consent to a hospital post mortem being conducted on themselves (70.8%) or on a loved one (69.5%).
o The majority of participants, if in a position to make a decision on consent for a hospital post-mortem, would like to be told:
§ which organs will be removed;
§ how long they will be kept;
§ how they will be returned to the family/disposed of;
§ the purpose for which the material is being removed; and
§ the benefits of the information to be received.

ii. Anatomical Examination/Education and Training of Medical Professionals
o One hundred and sixty-seven participants commented on these proposals.
o No respondents stated any disagreement with the proposals presented.
o Many commenters emphasized the importance of respect for the deceased alongside the importance of ongoing medical training.
o When asked about the likelihood that they would consent to the use of their tissue in these activities, participants responded with a relatively even spread of results from “Very unlikely” to “Very likely”.

iii. Public Display
o One-hundred and seventy respondents commented on these proposals.
o Respondents were in broad agreement with the proposals.
o Two (1.2%) respondents expressed direct disagreement with the proposals.
o Thirty-five respondents (20.6%) expressed some reservation with the idea of public display itself and some aspects thereof, but did not disagree with licensing the practice.
o A majority of participants (54.8%) said they would be very unlikely to consent to their body being used as part of a public display.

iv. Organ Donation and Transplantation
o One hundred and eighty participants commented on these proposals.
o One hundred and seventeen of these responses indicated agreement with the proposed soft opt-out system (65%).
o Twenty-three (12.7%) stated no objection to the proposals.
o Twenty-two (12.2%) respondents opposed the proposals.
o A majority (70.8%) of respondents said that they would be very unlikely to opt out of organ donation. A similar number (71.2%) also stated they would be very likely to consent to organ donation on behalf of a deceased loved one.
o Many comments emphasized that the public would need to be clearly informed about the introduction of such a register and that signing up to opt out should be easy to do for those who wish to do so.
o Participants emphasized a desire to see public information campaigns encouraging people to discuss organ donation and featuring people who have benefitted from organ donation. These views were shared by people both for and against the proposals. Most participants (83.4%) indicated that the proposals now being put forward would encourage them to discuss organ donation with their families.