Reform 'could double donor rates'
Overhauling the country's organ donation regime could see donor rates more than double, it has been claimed.
A cross-party group of TDs and senators has called for the Government to invest an initial two million euro to introduce a soft opt-out system.
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children chairman Jerry Buttimer claimed changing the existing regime would ultimately save the taxpayer millions, while saving more lives.
"But today is not about economics, it's about human life and quality of life for a person," Mr Buttimer said.
"It's about giving people a second chance."
Currently, people must opt in as donors by carrying organ donor cards.
Under the proposed system, families will be approached on the presumption their loved ones wish to donate, but offered the option to refuse.
Mr Buttimer said the opt-in system in Ireland is used by only a small minority of European Union countries.
"Countries that have changed to opt-out systems have seen significant increases in their rates of organ donation," he said.
"Over a three-year period after making the change to opt-out systems, Belgium saw its rate of organ donation increase by 100%, while over the same period, Singapore saw an increase of a massive 700%."
He said he was optimistic Health Minister James Reilly would consider investing an initial sum of two million euro to overhaul the system - despite a series of budgetary overspends within his department and yet another austerity budget just two weeks away.
The initial investment would be used to fund infrastructure, transplant surgeons and trained support staff.
"A short-term investment in our organ donation infrastructure has the potential to deliver real long-term savings for our health system, not to mention the long-term benefits to the lives of organ recipients," Mr Buttimer said.
It is understood one kidney transplant alone could save the state 680,000 euro over a 15-year period - more than 45,000 euro a year.
Donor rates in Ireland currently stand at around 20 per million.
The Health Committee has claimed that a transition to a new opt-out system would be accompanied by a major public awareness campaign.
It has also recommended that a national register be established for those who wish to withhold their consent to donate.
The changes to an opt-out system would not apply to under-16s. Their next of kin would retain full control over consent, meaning the opt-in process would remain in place for them.