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Varadkar signs up for his first organ donor card

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Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Leo Varadkar

HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar admitted he signed up for an organ donor card only yesterday - despite his medical background.

His next step is to speak to his family about his wishes should he die in unexpected circumstances, he added.

Mr Varadkar, who was launching Donor Organ Awareness Week, urged people to have a conversation with their families about their wishes on whether they wanted to become an organ donor after death.

He was surrounded in the Mansion House in Dublin by many people who have been given the gift of life, and others who are enduring the anxiety of waiting for a call to tell them a suitable donor is available.

Mark Murphy, chief executive of the Irish Kidney Association, said there needs to be more links with Northern Ireland to improve transplantation rates. It would be a "win-win" for people on both sides of the Border.

He said: "Last year, we transplanted 3.35 organs per deceased donor but only 1.56 organs, less than half our figure, were transplanted into Northern Ireland patients, despite their excellent retrieval levels of four organs per donor."

"I believe the all-Ireland rates of organ transplantation could be greatly enhanced, especially for hearts, lungs and liver," said Mr Murphy.

"All the North's heart, lungs and liver patients are required to travel to the UK for their transplant operations. The shorter the time an organ is outside a body, the greater the potential there is for its transplant success and longevity.

"Our access to the UK for complex kidney transplants and the paired kidney exchange programme could be conducted in Belfast instead of Coventry. An all-Ireland partnership would offer scientific, geographical and financial advantages while increasing the number of transplants carried out," he added.

There was a sharp decline in the number of deceased donors in 2014 from the previous year, 63 as compared with 86 in 2013. In total, 251 people received organ transplants in 2014, as compared with 294 in 2013.

Mr Varadkar said there should be improvements this year to increase donation.

A dedicated quality manager has been appointed in each of the three transplant hospitals - the Mater, Beaumont and St Vincent's - he said.

There will also be a number of organ procurement coordinators who will be on-call on a 24/7 basis.

Their responsibilities will include travelling to any hospital where a potential organ donor is identified, obtaining consent from bereaved families and getting comprehensive donor medical and social history.

They will support the donor family throughout the process, organising retrieval teams and co-ordinating theatre time.

Irish Independent