The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is supporting the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) in encouraging road users to register as organ donors (should they so wish) ahead of this year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week, taking place from 20-27 May.
Since its introduction 10 years ago, over 1.48 million people have recorded their consent to organ donation which is indicated by having Code 115 printed on their licence. Currently, there are 3.2 million individuals with either a driving licence or learner permit in Ireland, with 1,485,988* (46.3%) motorists registered as an organ donor, according to the most recent figures available to the Road Safety Authority.
The Irish Kidney Association believes that this indicates an extremely positive public attitude towards organ donation given that there has been no dedicated public awareness campaign since the introduction of the current licence format in January 2013.
This announcement was highlighted by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) to mark Organ Donor Awareness Week (20-27 May) as they jointly encourage motorists to be aware that they can use the driving licence or learner permit application or renewal processes as one of many ways to indicate their consent for organ donation.
Senator Mark Daly, who has been the IKA’s nominee to the Seanad since 2007, said that “Given that there is a legislative provision for some aspects of driving licence data to be shared with organisations like the Gardaí I believe that there is merit to further exploring how legislation can be drafted to include data sharing of Code 115 information with healthcare professionals to facilitate a more informed discussion with families considering the wishes of a loved one. This would be a ministerial decision”.
As can be seen in the graphic below, when families are asked about organ donation and know that their loved ones have indicated their wishes to be a donor, the consent rate for organ donation increases to over 93% where specialist organ donor nurses are also involved, as borne out by UK data.
The IKA considers that Code 115 data could offer potential for a ‘ready-made’ Opt-In Register for organ donation which would support families and health professionals faced with the difficult decision for organ donation. Currently there is no provision in the Human Tissue Bill for an Opt-In Register (presumed consent).
Ms. Carol Moore, Chief Executive, Irish Kidney Association, which is the organisation that leads on the promotion and distribution of the organ donor card in Ireland, said, “it is very encouraging that nearly one and a half million people have recorded code 115 on their driving licence to indicate consent to organ donation. Like the organ donor card, being in possession of a driving licence with Code 115 offers clarity and reassurance for people about the wishes of their loved one. It also promotes conversation around organ donation. It shows the very positive attitude Irish people have towards organ donation as there has been limited promotion of this option. We would like to thank the Road Safety Authority team for their longstanding support in including Code 115 on licences and permits as we believe it can offer clarity and reassurance for people about the wishes of their loved ones and can promote positive conversations and awareness around organ donation.
Ms Moore added, “We look forward to the Human Tissue Bill, which will replace outdated legislation, from 1832, being transposed into law and support the proposed opt-out register. We do however see the lack of an Opt-In register as a missed opportunity, especially given the future potential of legislating to allow usage of the Code 115 data. The Bill will also allow for altruistic living kidney donation in Ireland, where the donor does not know the recipient. Currently such donors have to travel outside our jurisdiction to Northern Ireland or overseas in order to donate altruistically.”
Speaking at the national launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week earlier this week (16 May), Ms. Moore said, “Organ donation is a great example of active citizenship, and the Irish Kidney Association is calling on everybody to take the opportunity of Organ Donor Awareness Week to share their wishes.”
Ms. Moore described how, “Patients on transplant waiting lists live in hope that organs will become available to them and a strong public show of support by requesting organ donor cards or using the Code 115 on licences/learner permits builds that hope. The uncertainty associated with waiting for an organ transplant is difficult as the future is unknown and there is the knowledge that in order to be given the Gift of Life another family will be grieving the loss of a loved one”.
“The end of year figures for transplantation last year offer encouragement and hope to people on transplant waiting lists as there was an increase in transplant activity with 250 organ transplants taking place in 2022, 44 more transplants than in 2021. The record 81 transplants in the first three months of this year offers further encouragement that we can return to or surpass the 5-year average (2015-2019) of transplant activity experienced pre-pandemic.
Mr Sam Waide, CEO Road Safety Authority said: “Organ donation has the ability to save lives and motorists can indicate their organ donation status on their driving licence or learner permit, which can greatly help a family to know of the wishes of their loved one when making decisions around organ donation. The RSA are happy to support IKA in their ‘Leave No Doubt campaign’ and encourage every motorist to consider if registering as an organ donor ahead of Organ Donor Awareness Week is right for them. We also hope that any individuals renewing their license or applying for a permit or licence for the first time will think to have a conversation with their loved ones, based on their personal preferences.”
The official launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week 2023 (20-27 May) by the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly T.D., was held at the Mansion House, Dublin 2 on Tuesday, 16th May. At the launch some significant milestones in transplantation in Ireland were noted, all of which were made possible by the gift of organ donation and the key campaign message was reinforced, Don’t Leave Your Loved Ones in Doubt, #LeaveNoDoubt.
Organ Donor Awareness Week 2023 will take place 20 – 27 May and is organised by the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) in association with the HSE’s Organ Donation Transplant Ireland (ODTI). This year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week campaign, which coincides with European Public Health Week, is built around the theme ‘Don’t Leave Your Loved Ones in Doubt!’ #LeaveNoDoubt. The key message is that members of the public can play their part in supporting organ donation for transplantation by ensuring that their families are not left in any doubt about their wishes around organ donation. i.e., they make sure to ‘have the conversation’. Sharing your wishes when you are in good health makes it a less stressful decision for your family in the event of them being approached about you being a potential organ donor.
At the campaign launch the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly T.D. said, “Organ donation is a gift of a second chance of life. Raising awareness about the importance of organ donation is a critical part of the great effort we must make so that more people get this second chance.”
“This year has set a record for the number of transplants performed in the first three months of a year with 81 transplants. As Minister for Health, I am committed to increasing organ donation and transplantation rates in Ireland and to make organ donation ‘the norm’ where possible. Enactment of the Human Tissue Bill will be an important step to achieving this.”
Minister Donnelly also said, “This year’s theme for Organ Donor Awareness Week of Don’t Leave Your Loved Ones in Doubt, #LeaveNoDoubt, highlights the importance of talking to your loved ones about organ donation. This is the best way to ensure that your wishes to become an organ donor are realised. I encourage everyone to have these conversations now. While I know talking about such issues can be uncomfortable, it will make it easier for your family to make this decision at what will inevitably be a difficult and tragic time.”
An Post is supporting this year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week campaign with 350 of its larger and busiest outlets displaying stocks of organ donor cards and also displaying the campaign poster on its digital screens in 295 of its top post offices. Lucy Murray, CX & Marketing Director for An Post Retail said, “We are delighted to support the Irish Kidney Association ahead of Organ Donation Awareness Week 2023. ’Don’t leave your loved ones in doubt‘ is such an important message and we’re helping to share this across communities in our network of Post Offices. Thousands of families across Ireland have benefited from the gift of organ donation and we want to play a part to grow this number by encouraging people to sign up and carry an Organ Donor Card.”
Dr. Catherine Motherway, Clinical Lead, Organ Donation & Transplant Ireland, HSE also spoke at the national launch of the campaign and said, “Organ Donation saves and transforms the lives of Ireland’s transplant recipients. The Gift of Life given by our donors both living and deceased is celebrated and cherished publicly every year during Organ Donation Awareness Week. This year will mark 60 years of Organ Donation and Transplantation in Ireland. Over the intervening years advances in transplant medicine and surgery have allowed us to offer hope to more patients suffering from failure of a vital organ. At this time, we take a moment to reflect on how this would not be possible without the selfless generosity of our organ donors and their families. We remember our deceased donor families who, in the midst of grief and in the face of the sudden loss of a loved one find it in their hearts to think of others in need. Our living donors give of themselves freely to help a loved one. This week I would encourage everyone to let their families know their wishes. Have that conversation please. For bereaved families when the wishes of the Donor are known it is an act of love to respect and honour that wish. It can bring comfort in a very dark and difficult time. For those of us who have the honour of caring for our donors and their families and who work to care for our transplant community we thank and honour all our donors.”
At any one time in Ireland there are between 550 and 600 people active on waiting lists for organ transplants including heart, lung, liver, kidney, and pancreas. 250 organ transplant operations were carried out in Ireland in 2022 (44 more transplants than in 2021). This activity last year, in very challenging times with COVID-19, could not have taken place but for the generosity of the families of 86 deceased donors and 33 living kidney donors. In 2022, 51 liver transplants and 8 pancreas transplants took place at St. Vincent’s Hospital, while 10 heart transplants and 18 lung transplants were carried out at the Mater Hospital.
Last year, saw an increase in the number of kidney transplants taking place at Beaumont Hospital – 163 kidney transplants took place of which 33 were from Living Kidney Donors. There are 2,466 people in Ireland in end stage kidney failure undergoing dialysis treatment, but only approximately one fifth of these are on the transplant waiting list.
2023 marks several important milestones in organ donation and transplantation in Ireland:
- The 60thanniversary of the first transplant to take place in Ireland, a kidney transplant for 21-year-old Ted Tobin, from Dublin, which took place at the old St. Vincent’s Hospital on St. Stephen’s Green
- 51stanniversary of Ireland’s first live donor kidney transplant at Jervis Street Hospital
- The 45thanniversary of the introduction of the kidney donor card by the Irish Kidney Association (in the same year the Association was founded 1978), which has evolved into the multi-organ donor card.
- 38 years since Ireland’s first heart transplant at the Mater University Hospital
- 31 years of pancreas transplantation; the programme began at Beaumont Hospital, founded by transplant surgeon Dr. David Hickey. The programme migrated to St. Vincent’s University Hospital in 2016.
- The 30thanniversary of Ireland’s first liver transplant at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
- The 20thanniversary of the paediatric kidney transplant programme at CHI Temple Street
- The 18th anniversary of the first lung transplant at the Mater University Hospital
- The 15thanniversary of first spousal (non-blood related) live donor kidney transplant at Beaumont Hospital
- 10 years since the introduction of code 115 on Drivers Licence in January 2013 with sign up by 1,485,988 drivers by 9thMay 2023, representing 46.3% of all drivers
The Irish Pharmacy Union is supporting the campaign and several Pharmacy chains are also helping to spread the message about the importance of organ donation by displaying the campaign poster and carrying stocks of organ donor cards. The campaign poster will be displayed on outdoor advertising poster sites in shopping centres, sponsored by Clear Channel. RTÉ’s Fair City will also have posters featured on the set in some of its episodes broadcast during Organ Donor Awareness Week.
All campaign posters are available in English, Irish and Polish, and digital copies can be downloaded from the Irish Kidney Association’s website www.ika.ie/donorweek
The public is being asked to mark Organ Donor Awareness Week by getting together to discuss organ donation with their loved ones, and letting them know their wishes about organ donation. The organ donor card is the perfect icebreaker to start this conversation. Whether it’s organising a get together with family and friends, setting up an information stand in your school, college, or place of work, it all makes a difference. You can request Organ Donor Cards via the IKA’s website www.ika.ie/donorweek
The Irish Kidney Association also provides their ‘Digital Organ Donor Card’ free to download from the App Store and the Google Playstore.
Social media hashtags for Organ Donor Awareness Week are: #LeaveNoDoubt, #ShareYourWishes and #DonorWeek23. People can also tag the Irish Kidney Association when doing their own social media posts ( @IrishKidneyAs on Twitter, @IrishKidneyA on Instagram , @IrishKidneyAssociation on Facebook).
Individuals who wish to support organ donation by sharing their wishes with their loved ones and are encouraged to keep the reminders of their decision available by carrying the organ donor card, permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence or having the ‘digital organ donor card’ App on their smartphone. Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the website www.ika.ie or phoning the Irish Kidney Association on Tel. 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050
*Licence figures with code 115 as of 9 May 2023
**excludes 8 UK paired exchange/desensitised transplants