Donor doctor against policy changes

The lead clinician in charge of Organ Donation in the Western Trust has said he has “great concerns” about any plans which would see the introduction of ‘presumed consent’ when it comes to the organ donation register.

Dr Declan Grace said while he was sure the policy would see an “initial subtle uplift” in the number of people signing the register or expressing an interest he was fearful of the implications such a policy could have in the longterm.

He said that the impact could eventually be similar to that of the organ retention scandal last decade which led to a “marked downturn” in the number of families giving consent for their loved one’s organs to be donated.

“Anyone who works in organ donation would tell you we have real fears about the impact this could have in the future,” he said.

Presumed Consent is set to become law in Wales - and a campaign has been heavily supported in Ireland by GAA pundit and Journal columnist Joe Brolly.

However Dr. Grace described the issue as a “pantomime” compared to the real issues surrounding donation. “The most important thing we can do with organ donation is to encourage people to talk to their next of kin and their families to let them know their wishes as regards donation.

“As a team we are at a huge advantage if the patient’s family are aware of their loved one’ s wishes - it makes a huge difference.”

Dr Grace was speaking at the monthly meeting of the Western Health and Social Care Trust where he was delivering his annual report on organ donation within the Trust area.

He revealed that the Trust continues to outperform the rest of the UK in terms of their management of the sensitive issue of organ donation.

In the last year 11 people have had their organs donated by their families - supplying 44 organs and eight tissue samples to grateful recipients. Ninety per cent of all families approached about donation at Altnagelvin consented to the process.

Dr. Grace credited this not only to an increased awareness of organ donation but also to the specialist team in place in the Trust.