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Transplants hit record high, but card cuts bite


 SUPPORT: Alannah Best's  mum is a transplant patient

SUPPORT: Alannah Best's mum is a transplant patient

SUPPORT: Alannah Best's mum is a transplant patient

ORGAN transplant operations have reached a record high but cuts in discretionary medical cards are having a devastating effect on thousands of transplant and dialysis patients needing special medication.

The warning has come from the Irish Kidney Association boss Mark Murphy, who says that the cuts are impacting on all the 3,000 people with transplants and the 1,800 dialysis patients who rely on advanced medication.

Altogether, a record 294 organ transplants were carried out last year from both living and deceased donors, and the operations included 11 difficult double transplants.


While the number of deceased donors remained at 86, the same as a decade ago, doctors were able to harvest an extra 69 organs from those donors thanks to medical advances.

Mr Murphy, in welcoming the record number of transplant operations, said this was largely down to the generosity of the families of donors who had died.

The increase in transplants was also due to a new source of deceased donors – cardiac death donors – he explained.

Mr Murphy said that in the past brain stem death donors were the norm. Now organs were also being taken where a person was on life-support and "continuation was futile".

When the machine is switched off, a person lives for about 90 minutes before they die of a heart attack. Organs are now also being donated and harvested in these cases.

Mr Murphy was speaking at the national launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week 2014, which beings this Saturday.

He said that the investment of €2.9m by the HSE in the service this year to manage organ donation and to employ organ donor coordinators was "a major step in elevating organ donation in Ireland".

It would give encouragement, he added, to the 550 people or more that were waiting on transplant waiting lists.

Mr Murphy also urged the Minister for Health to re-examine the impact on the transplant service of the "widespread loss of discretionary medical cards for all patients who are chronically ill and reliant on high-tech medications".

"I fear for these people if nothing is resolved," he said.

"I am also concerned that very few transplanted people will ever return to employment due to the almost automatic loss of their medical cards in the future," Mr Murphy added.


The focus of Organ Donor Awareness week is to raise awareness and also to raise funds for the Irish Kidney Association, which helps both patients on dialysis and those people who have received an organ transplant.

Organ Donor Cards are available by phoning the Irish Kidney Association LoCall 1890 543639, or Freetext the word DONOR to 50050.

You can also get one by visiting the website www.ika.ie.

It is further possible to store a donor card on smartphones by searching for "Donor Ecard" at the iPhone Store or the Android marketplace.