Call for more drivers to tick organ donation box on driving licence application form

Senator Mark Daly, Christina Hegarty, Road Safety and Education Manager, RSA, Dr Catherine Motherway, and Carol Moore, Chief Executive IKA.

Conor Feehan

Almost half of Irish drivers are now registered organ donors but more needs to be done to raise awareness that others can use their driving licence or learner permit to show their consent for organ donation.

This is the message of the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) during Organ Donor Awareness Week, taking place this week.

Since its introduction 10 years ago, over 1.48m people have recorded their consent to organ donation by having Code 115 printed on their licence.

Currently, there are 3.2m people with either a driving licence or learner permit in Ireland, with 46.3pc of motorists registered as an organ donor, according to the most recent figures available to the RSA.

The IKA, which leads the promotion and distribution of the organ donor card in Ireland, 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.

“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,” said IKA Chief Executive Carol Moore.

“Organ donation is a great example of active citizenship, and the IKA is calling on everybody to take the opportunity of Organ Donor Awareness Week to share their wishes.”

“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 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 five-year average from 2015-2019 of transplant activity experienced pre-pandemic,” she added.

Ms Moore also said she supports the proposed ‘opt-out’ register, which assumes a person would give permission to donate their organs unless specified otherwise.

“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.

She also welcomes the new Human Tissue Bill, which will replace outdated legislation from 1832, and will also allow for altruistic living kidney donation in Ireland, where the donor does not know the recipient, just as a person donates blood altruistically.

Currently such donors have to travel outside our jurisdiction to Northern Ireland or overseas in order to donate altruistically.

Sam Waide, CEO of the RSA, 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,” he said.

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.

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, which was 44 more transplants than in 2021.

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