LUNG transplants carried out at Dublin's Mater Hospital are achieving standards above the international norm, according to the director of the National Organ Donation and Transplant Office, Professor Jim Egan,
Having achieved top standards since the first lung transplant there in 2005, Prof Egan says the problem now is the insufficient number of transplants.
"That is the quest I'm on at the moment," says Prof Egan, a consultant respiratory physician.
The first lung transplant in Ireland was conducted, successfully, in 2005.
"This was a single lung transplant and was very successful. And the key target at the time was that we would compare favourably to international standards," Prof Egan said.
The Mater transplant team, now under lead surgeon Karen Redmond, immediately achieved the required standard and this was acknowledged in published material in the 'British Medical Journal'.
"After that we carried out six to eight transplants each year, up to last year. Then we did 12 transplants in 2012 and already this year, we've done eight."
Despite the high standards, 23 patients died on waiting lists last year.
"The number of donations can be addressed through a better organisational structure and through the enactment into law of the proposed Tissue Bill in the Oireachtas," he added.
Prof Egan hopes that the 'presumed consent' clause in the Bill will become law.
There are 678 patients awaiting life-saving organ transplantation in Ireland.
"I would support presumed consent – an assumption that the deceased person's organs are made available for transplantation.
"The countries where it exists have the best organ donation rates in Europe, such as Spain and Portugal. There, 30 donations per one million population are made available, compared to just 18 in Ireland, which is still higher than the UK," said Prof Egan.
Legalising presumed consent would be "a statement from society that we are an organ donation society", according to Prof Egan.
Meanwhile, one person must be made responsible for organ donations in all the key hospitals.
"This presumed consent would operate on a 'soft' basis," added Prof Egan.
"You still must ask the family concerned – and they can stop it."
Prof Egan said that there was also a compelling economic reason to increase donations and transplants.
"It's conservatively estimated that the appropriate number of transplants in Ireland would save the State about €60m over 10 years, because of cost savings in medical care and medicines," said Prof Egan.