'Significant decline' in organ donation concerning, says Irish Donor Network

'Significant Decline' In Organ Donation Concerning, Says Irish Donor Network
The organ transplant rate fell by 32 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 figures. Photo: PA Archive/PA Images
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Muireann Duffy

The number of organ donations fell by almost a third in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the Irish Donor Network (IDN).

The rate of deceased organ donations was down by 27.1 per cent during the period, while the rate of solid organ transplantations fell by 32.1 per cent.


The largest decreases in transplants were noted in lung (-58.2 per cent), heart (-42 per cent), liver (-44.9 per cent), and kidney programmes (-21.3 per cent).

The declines mean Ireland is now 18th among 28 EU countries for overall organ transplantation, and 17th for deceased organ donation.

The IDN expressed "deep concern" at the yearly trends, calling on the Government to take a range of measures to revive organ donation and transplantation, including a plan to bring the State into the EU's top 10.


The group are asking that the Government urgently enact the Human Tissue Bill and 'soft' opt-out organ donation to increase the number of organs available for transplantation, in addition to increased resources to ensure the measure is effective.


They are also seeking the full restoration of all transplant facilities which have been used for the treatment of Covid-19, and all those facilities which have been otherwise impacted by the pandemic.

"The Irish Donor Network is aware that one of the key reasons for the decline in transplants in Ireland between 2019 and 2020 is that transplant resources, including clinical staff, were diverted to treat Covid-19 patients, or because transplants and assessments were paused due to facilities being adjacent to Covid-19 wards," IDN chairperson, Philip Watt says.

"This is likely to explain, for example, why the heart and lung transplant programme in the Mater Hospital was most disrupted by Covid-19 compared with all transplant programmes."


"In expressing our concerns on behalf of many waiting for a transplant assessment or a life-saving transplant operation, we wish to acknowledge and thank the very dedicated clinical staff involved in organ donation and transplantation in Ireland.

"Clinical staff, alongside their colleagues in Organ Donation & Transplant Ireland, the HSE body that coordinates transplant and donation services in Ireland, have undertaken trojan work over the past 18 months in very difficult circumstances. In drawing attention to these figures, this is not an effort to apportion blame, rather it is an urgent ‘call for action’ for Government," Mr Watt adds.

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