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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
# Organ Donation
Over 200 organ transplants carried out despite 'extremely challenging' year for service
Ninety-nine donors were involved in the process – 64 people who had died and 35 living donors.

JUST OVER 200 organ transplants were carried out in Ireland in 2021, the HSE has confirmed.

As of 29 December, 203 organ transplants were performed this year, up from 190 in 2020, and down from 274 transplants in 2019.

The majority of this year’s operations – 137 – were kidney transplants, while 34 liver, 10 heart, 20 lung and 2 pancreas transplants also took place.

Ninety-nine donors were involved in the process – 64 people who had died and 35 living donors.

Speaking on the figures, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said organ donation is “among the most selfless gifts we can give another” and thanked the families of the donors saying: “I want to express my thanks to these families, and hope they can take some solace in the relief and joy brought to the 203 organ recipients and their families and friends.”

Donnelly acknowledged that the past two years have been “extremely challenging” for organ donation transplant services due to the impact of Covid-19 on hospital activity.

Over 600 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant in Ireland. This includes patients on dialysis awaiting kidney transplants and patients waiting for lung, heart and liver transplants. While some kidney donations can take place through the living donation programme, all other organ donations can only proceed if a deceased donor is involved.

Echoing a similar announcement at the end of last year, Donnelly again said he intends to bring the Human Tissue Bill to Cabinet early next year. The legislation, which was first proposed in 2009, will provide for a soft opt-out system – where people are presumed to want to donate their organs when they die, unless they opt out.


Chief Executive of the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) Carol Moore said that while a decline in organ donation and transplantation has been a global experience throughout the pandemic, the fragility of the transplant service in Ireland was exposed in November when a transplant did not proceed at the Mater Hospital due to the unavailability of an ICU bed.

The Mater said at the time that there were “severe capacity constraints” in its ICU on the day, with some 50% of those being cared for seriously ill Covid-19 patients.

Moore said the IKA hopes this incident will not be repeated but rather be a catalyst to effect change, calling for transplant resources to be “ring-fenced”. The association also want detailed data on seeking consent for organ donation in hospitals nationwide and more transparency around transplant waiting lists.

“We need more clarity about the reasons why more transplant operations are not taking place in Ireland. For example, was the decline in 2020 and 2021 due to a lack of ICU beds in the donor or transplant centres, or were all suitable donor families approached?” said Moore, noting that “we do not know what key actions are required to improve transplant rates”.

Moore added: “The IKA’s key message to the public will continue to focus on the importance of sharing your organ donation wishes with your family as they are the people who will be asked for final consent for organ retrieval to take place”.

Dr Catherine Motherway, the HSE’s clinical lead on organ donation, also thanked the families of deceased donors.

“This time of year we remember those who have gone before us. On behalf of ODTI, intensive care staff, transplant teams and transplant recipients I wish to thank and honour the memory of our deceased donors.

“Organ donation saves and changes lives. It is an honour to be able to work with families who time and time again find it in themselves when faced with the sudden death of a loved one to think of others. We cannot express enough our gratitude. In death our donors give life.

The last two years have been incredibly difficult for us all. Throughout the last 18 months we have worked to try to ensure that we can continue to offer organ donation and to maintain transplant programs. Intensive care, theatre, medical and nursing staff across our donor hospitals and transplant centres continue with true professionalism to support organ donation and transplantation.

To order an organ donor card, email; freetext DONOR to 50050; download the app here; or call 01 6205306.

Alternatively, a person can collect a donor card at their local pharmacy, or sign the back of their driving licence to indicate their wishes (permitting Code 115).

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