Organ for cancelled transplant could not be sent for use elsewhere

Shortage of ICU beds at Mater hospital triggered by the current wave of Covid-19 cases

The organ donated for a transplant operation at the Mater hospital that was ultimately cancelled due to overcrowding could not sent for use overseas, it has emerged.

Because of the time pressures involved, it did not prove possible to safely transfer the organ for use in a transplant in another jurisdiction, according to Prof Jim Egan, director of Organ Donation and Transplants Ireland

The organ was delivered to the hospital earlier this month but the operation had to be cancelled due to a shortage of ICU beds triggered by the current wave of Covid-19 cases.

Every effort was made to carry out the transplant that evening, as donated organs can only be outside the body for a certain period, Prof Egan said.


Describing the incident as “unprecedented in my professional career”, he said the medical team at the Mater hospital in Dublin have resumed carrying out transplants since this incident occurred.

Prof Egan said he was “very aware” of the distress caused to donor families by news of the incident but said staff found themselves having to make “difficult decisions” on the day.

In a statement, the Mater cited severe capacity constraints in its intensive care unit on the day, with 50 per cent those being cared for in ICU severely ill Covid-19 patients.

“Every effort was made both within the hospital and in the wider hospital system in Dublin to secure a bed. The decision was not taken lightly and the Mater deeply regrets the impact this had on the transplant patient, their family and the donor’s family.”

Prof Egan told RTÉ Radio that organ transplantation is continuing, as it has throughout the pandemic. "No stone is being left unturned to deliver organ transplants."

However, staff are dealing with an “unprecedented” virus surge and and ICU capacity is a “pinch point”.

The death rate among transplant patients who contract a new virus infection is 20 per cent, he pointed out.

The hospital is carrying out a review into the incident, and the wider implications for the transplant programme.

About 650 people are awaiting transplant surgery in Ireland.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.