I know we are expected to be grateful. At least the issue of Organ Donation got a mention down there on Page 38, but regretfully, it is in the least helpful way possible.
Our new government promises to legislate for an Opt-Out system. In the near future, it will be presumed that every person who dies in this country is a consenting organ donor, unless they have actually registered themselves prior to death as being unwilling to donate.
This worries me on several levels. It worries me that our new government did not heed the advice of bodies such as the Irish Kidney Association and others, who pointed out the flaws with this policy.
The statistics show that in other countries, where Opt-Out has been introduced, no discernible difference was made to the rate of transplants.
This has been flagged to all parties in Leinster House on many occasions. Those healthy ones who lobby on behalf of people like me told them all – Opt-Out sounds like a great plan, but it doesn’t work. And it certainly doesn’t work as a standalone piece of legislation.
Yet, they carried on. Now it is enshrined in the blueprint for the next five years of governance.
To put it in context, this would be like addressing the need for increased revenue for the Exchequer by introducing a tax on spaceships, rather than on property. It achieves nothing.
It will obviously increase the number of potential donors – but potential is worthless unless you have the means to transform it into the actual. It is pointless to have potential donors when the environment within which our health service operates is still hopelessly ill-equipped for the harvesting and transplanting of organs.
What we needed in this Programme for Government was a pledge to create a National Transplant Authority; a commitment to install a Donor Coordinator in each of our hospitals around the country.
We don’t need legislation for potential – we need progress towards actual results. We need one staff member in each Intensive Care Unit whose job it is to identify donors, speak with their families and set things in motion. It is that simple.
This is a clumsy move by the new government. It will result in more pressure on ICU nurses, more anger at front-line staff when transplant figures come out and they are dismal, and the media ask the question of why this is so when we now have an Opt-Out system in place.
It will allow the Health Minister of the time to shimmy out of any accusations laid against him, shifting the blame to over-worked and underpaid staff in badly resourced hospitals, which will suffer yet more cuts under this awkward coalition of the right and the left.
Perhaps that was the intention of this government, and if that is the cynical first step of their journey in power, it is of immense concern.