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Consent of organ donation will be deemed unless a person has, while alive, registered his or her wish to not become an organ donor after death. Alamy Stock Photo
Human Tissue Bill

Soft opt-out organ donation on the way as delayed Bill finally sees movement

The bill will also bring in the requirement of a license for the public display of bodies after death.

SOFT OPT-OUT ORGAN donation will be permitted in Ireland once legislation that is going before Cabinet today passes through the Oireachtas. 

The measure is included in legislation that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will seek Government approval for today.

Under the bill, consent will be deemed unless a person has, while alive, registered his or her wish to not become an organ donor after death.

Thee will still discussion with designated family members before organs are removed for transplant.

Progression of the Bill will be welcomed by campaigners who have been critical of the delays in establishing an organ donation framework. 

Other than organ donation and transplantation, the Human Tissue (Transplantation, Post-Mortem, Anatomical Examination, and Public Display) Bill also covers areas such as post-mortems. 

The new law will implement the relevant recommendations of the Madden Report on post-mortem practices and procedures, as well as regulations around the retention, storage, use and disposal of organs and tissue from deceased persons following a hospital post-mortem.

Incineration of remains

There have been calls from campaigners for the legislation to progress quickly, after it emerged that the remains of 18 babies were sent abroad for incineration without the knowledge of their parents between 25 March and 2 April 2020. 

Last week, the management at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) accepted findings that families were badly let down by the decision to incinerate their deceased babies’ organs without the consent of their parents. 

Clinical regulations introduced under the Bill will apply to all post-mortem practice and procedures in hospital settings. Up to now only guidelines have been in place.

Public display 

The Bill will repeal the Anatomy Act 1832, and put in place arrangements for the donation of bodies to anatomy schools and provisions for the setting of standards to be met in the practice of anatomy.

The new legislation also deals with the public display of dead bodies, something which is currently not legislated for in Ireland.

The State currently has no powers to investigate the decision of putting bodies on public display, or to intervene if required.

Under the Bill, a license will be required for the public display of bodies after death. This will not impact funeral arrangements when someone is in repose, but is aimed at events such as the Real Bodies exhibition, which displays human remains to the public. 

The provisions in the legislation outline the consent arrangements required for the donation of a body or body parts for public display and ensure the provenance of the specimens used.

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