CHANGING the organ donation system in Ireland to an ‘opt-out’ scenario will “not improve donation levels”, according to the newly appointed honorary chairman of the Irish Kidney Association (IKA).
Stephen O’Sullivan from Ardrahan was named as the honorary chairman of the association earlier this month after five years on the board of the IKA.
“There is much debate at the moment about the consent issue in relation to organ donation. However, changing consent laws will not improve donation levels. The problem lies in the shortages of services and infrastructure. We need fully trained organ donor coordinators in our hospitals and we also need an organ donor registry, where people can register their decision on organ donation.
“No organisation in Ireland has done more research on the subject of organ consent than the IKA and it has been proved over and over again in other countries that changing consent law has no effect on organ donor rates,” the Kilcolgan resident stated.
“Anywhere the opt-out system was tried, and two prime examples would be Spain and Croatia, they changed the law and nothing happened. The rates didn’t improve. When they put in donor coordinators in each of the hospital, people who were trained to identify potential donors and trained in how to approach and speak to families, that was what increased it. That is what made the difference in those two countries and they have now gone back to a situation where they are seeking consent,” he claimed.
“I want to see that here. In Ireland, there are five transplant coordinators and they are all based in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. In the six counties of Northern Ireland, they have 27 donor coordinators. There is a huge difference. If you look at England, in the last five years they put in an infrastructure of supports for donor coordinators and placed coordinators in the hospitals. Their donation rates have gone up 50%, so that shows it does work,” Mr O’Sullivan stated.
Married for 32 years, Stephen has been an active member of the association since the late 1990s, when his wife Maura was first diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. He encourages all kidney patients to become members of the association “because they will gain a lot of information and support, as well as receiving our informative quarterly magazine.”
Mr O’Sullivan acknowledged the assistance of the late Bernard Cooke and his wife, Angeline, both founder members of the IKA, and also from Galway, who guided him in his role of Galway branch chairperson.
Mr O’Sullivan said he is looking forward to his two-year term as national chairman and “the many challenges this will bring but you can be assured that the patient will always come first”.
“The HSE now has a National Renal Office and Organ Donation and Transplant Office and we look forward to the improvement in renal transplant figures and services. There is a need for improvement in availability of holiday treatments for haemodialysis patients and this is something I intend to tackle.”
The Irish Kidney Association has more than 3,000 members and 25 branches nationwide. The association provides many forms of assistance and support, including financial, emotional and practical to all kidney patients, their families and carers.