President Higgins addresses the Irish Kidney Association Annual Service of Remembrance & Thanksgiving

organ donation

President Higgins joined people from all walks of life and beliefs in honouring organ donors, at the Irish Kidney Association's 35th Annual Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, today, Sunday 15 November. 

President Higgins is Patron of the Irish Kidney Association, and in his message he paid homage to deceased and living organ donors, who have made possible “that most precious gift, of life and living.” 

In his message he said:

"I welcome the opportunity to participate in today’s Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, organised by the Irish Kidney Association. In the more than half a century since the first kidney transplant took place in Ireland, that most precious gift, of life and living, has been offered to thousands of our citizens. This life saving, or life changing, gift is made possible through a generosity of human nature so worthy of recognition.

"Today’s event is, thus, an important one, bringing together those generous individuals and families who have performed an act of great altruism towards a fellow human being; and the grateful recipients of that profound action of human solidarity.

"Some of you with us today may have made this gift at a time of great personal tragedy. Others amongst you are living donors who have selflessly donated a kidney to a friend, family member or stranger in need. All of you have enriched and extended the lives of others, have played a vital role in the making possible of new chapters of hope and possibility for those suffering from kidney failure.

"That so many recipients and their families are joining us here today is surely a powerful testament to the great gratitude felt for the new lease of life that has been offered to them or their loved ones, and a demonstration of the great difference an organ transplant can make to a recipient’s life and to the lives of their family and friends.

Among the events Sabina and I have organised since I became President, I recall a St. Patrick’s Day reception held in Áras an Uachtaráin in 2018 for organ donors, recipients and their families. The wonderful sense of solidarity between all those in the room on that St Patrick’s Day was deeply moving and remains with us.

In terms of medical science and practice, organ transplant is one of the greatest medical advances of this modern age. Currently, some four-thousand people in Ireland are enjoying an extended and better life because of the generosity of organ donors. However, while transplant is now a commonplace technique in Ireland, there are, unfortunately, too many people who continue to die each year while waiting for transplants.

Encouraging and achieving donation remains, I am aware, a challenge. It is critical that we all play a part in nurturing both public and private conversations on the importance of organ donation. We know that deceased organ donation remains rare in Ireland with an average of 80 multi-organ donors from the approximately 30,000 deaths each year in this country.

We also know that currently some 500 patients are awaiting life-saving transplants and, you all will understand, that behind those figures lie the many anxious family members desperately hoping their spouse, child, parent or sibling will become a beneficiary of the powerful gesture of organ donation.

Discussion around organ donation is, of course, and will always be, a very sensitive and emotional one, tied up as it is with thoughts of loss and bereavement. It can also, however, be a conversation of hope and renewal, on commitment and the intangible joy of giving, of life continuing, and of the wonderful legacy it constitutes, one that we can leave behind by donating our organs to others.

I am well aware of recent months having been particularly difficult for many of those awaiting kidney transplants. The risks of Covid-19 saw the upsetting, but necessary, halting of the transplant programme in March, with significant anguish and disappointment for many patients whose transplant had been scheduled, or those who were awaiting that all important telephone call to tell them a kidney had become available.

I am so glad that, after many weeks of worry and uncertainty, the programme has now resumed; that once more patients are receiving the cherished gift of life from generous donors, or from those who have the courage to translate a tragic loss of their own into a profoundly generous act towards others.

The development of organ transplants stands as one of the great triumphs of human scientific achievement. It also stands as testament to the great spirit of human solidarity that exists here in Ireland and across the world. May I sincerely thank all those of you here today who have donated an organ to a friend or loved one, or who have made the brave decision to donate the organs of a deceased family member to a stranger in great need.

Your citizenship, compassion and care is truly something to be cherished, acknowledged and celebrated.

Mar focail scoir, finally, may I also extend my gratitude to the Irish Kidney Association for all they do in the support of patients suffering from kidney disease, and for the support they give to their families. It is an Association of which I am very proud to be patron, and I wish you every success as you continue with your vital work.

Traoslaím libh. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir, agus beir beannacht."

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