Strange Boat - Organ Donation Awareness


Organ donation procedure

In safe hands

Organ Donation Process

The following information outlines the organ donation process, facilitated by the Donor Coordinators in Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI).

Brain stem death

Organ donation can be considered when a patient on a life support machine is diagnosed brain stem dead. This could be as a result of a massive brain haemorrhage or some form of head trauma. Brain stem death is the permanent loss of function of the brain stem and this is ascertained through tests carried out by two senior doctors to determine absence of brain function. When these tests show that there is no brain function and no chance of recovery, the patient is declared dead.

At this stage the family may wish to discuss the option of organ donation or may be approached by the medical or nursing staff in the Intensive Care Unit to discuss the possibility of organ donation. The ventilator or life support machine will keep the blood circulating after death, which means the organs can be maintained for transplantation. The medical staff provide information and support to the family in making their decision.

Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD)

Donation after circulatory death (DCD) occurs when a patient donates organs following the determination of death by cardio-respiratory criteria. A strict protocol is followed before this is considered. The medical team or the donor coordinators can provide more information.

What’s next?

Once the decision to proceed with organ donation has been made by the family, the donor coordinator from the National ODTI Service in Dublin is contacted.

In 2015 Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) was set up to comply with EU regulations as the national service. This is a 24/7 service provided 365 days a year. 

Donor coordinators organise the donation process providing support and advice to all families and hospitals nationwide. The coordinators contact the transplant centres who find suitably matched recipients and schedule a time for the donation to take place.

The donor coordinator then travels to the local hospital and meets the donor family. The donation process is described and outlined and any questions the family may have are answered.

As part of the process a detailed health and lifestyle questionnaire is completed with families to ensure there are no contraindications to donation. Having spoken with the donor coordinator if the family then wish to proceed with organ donation, the family will then be asked for consent. Only organs which are specifically consented for are taken for transplantation and only if a suitable recipient has been identified. 

There are also 6 ODTI team members available locally, within the hospital groups around the country who provide support and education for local hospital staff. 

Transplant teams - caring for a vulnerable community

The donor operation takes place in the operating theatre by the transplant teams in the hospital where the donor has died, under the same surgical conditions as any other operation. 

There are individual transplant teams for each of the organs that are being donated, and the surgery is performed by specialist transplant teams from the individual transplant centres: the Mater Hospital for heart & lung, St Vincent’s Hospital for liver and Pancreas and Beaumont Hospital for kidney. 

Each team consists of two surgeons and a nurse. The donor coordinator is present in theatre during the surgery to support both the donor and transplant personnel during the process, and cares for the donor after the procedure. It is the highest priority of our teams to maintain dignity and respect for the deceased person at all times.

Recipient operation

Following donation, each individual team takes responsibility to transport the organ back with them to the transplant centre where the recipient operation will take place. The transplants are carried out without delay as soon as the recipients are prepared for the operation. 

Gift of Life

4-6 weeks following the donation, the ODTI donor coordinators will write to the donor family thanking them and giving them news of each recipient who has benefited from the donation. At any stage following donation, a donor family may contact the donor coordinator to enquire about the well-being of the recipients.

The gift of life is the greatest gift to receive. Each year in Ireland approximately 300 transplants take place, each offering new life to so many. This new life is given through the thoughtfulness and unselfishness of so many donor families who make that very brave decision to donate their loved ones’ organs for transplantation. Transplant recipients are forever grateful and remember their donor and donor family every day of their new lives.


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