Organs will never be taken without family's consent, insists Varadkar
Organs will never be removed to transplant to another patient unless there is family consent, acting Health Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday.
He was speaking as pressure grew from many of the 550 patients on a waiting list for a life-saving transplant to introduce an "opt out" system of organ donation.
This would result in individuals being presumed to have consented to organ donation unless they previously indicated they wanted to opt out.
Mr Varadkar said it was a matter for the next government but he "cannot imagine any situation where organs would be removed without first asking relatives." He was speaking at the launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week from April 2 to 9.
He added: "It is more important that people have a conversation with the families, maybe around the dinner table, about their wishes.
"I have provided additional funding to Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland. Some 266 transplants were carried out last year involving 81 deceased donors and 33 living donors. I want to see donation and transplantation rates increasing again in 2016."
Many people whose lives have been saved by transplants spoke of how they will never forget the generosity of donors and their families.
Most will never meet their donor but Shannon Proudfoot (9), from Nobber in Co Meath, held the hand of the woman who gave her the gift of life - her aunt Anne.
Anne donated a kidney to Shannon, who was born with under-developed kidneys.
Anne, a mother of three, said: "It was a privilege to donate the kidney and see the difference it made in Shannon. She is my godchild and I am the fairy godmother."
Listowel-born Alan Gleeson, a member of An Garda Síochána, also spoke of how his life was dramatically transformed when he received a kidney transplant as a teenager.
"When I got the call that an organ was available, I got a garda escort to Dublin.
"I made my mind up to become a garda," he said.
Alan, who is stationed in Coolock, fulfilled his ambition and enjoyed great health until last year when his kidney failed.
He was devastated to find he now has to go on dialysis three times a week, getting up at 3am.
He is back on the waiting list for a transplant.
Speaking at the launch, Mark Murphy of the Irish Kidney Association said Beaumont Hospital, the only centre where kidney transplants are performed, cannot keep up with the demand.
"Beaumont cannot do this alone. We urgently need a second transplanting hospital.There are 460 people on the kidney transplant waiting list, which only represents 23pc of the dialysis patients. The length of time it takes to be listed for a transplant varies across the country."
He said that for every 100 dialysis patients, the HSE had to find another €5m.
"We now have the medical expertise to convert our increased organ donation rates to more transplantation.
"I commend the three hospitals involved, Beaumont, St Vincent's and the Mater. While no pancreas transplants took place in 2015, we are optimistic the new programme will start this year."
Mr Varadkar said the team was ready for a pancreatic transplant and was just waiting for the right match at this stage.