Health: New initiative for changed organ donation rules

Health: New initiative for changed organ donation rules
Health: New initiative for changed organ donation rules

In general, many people think it is right to make organs available after death. However, they often do not record their wishes and waiting lists for organs are long. Is there any movement now?

In the struggle for more life-saving organ donations, a new attempt is being made to reform the donation rules in the Bundestag. A group of MPs will present a cross-party initiative in Berlin today.

This involves the “introduction of an opt-out rule”. This means that everyone should initially be considered a donor – unless they object. Currently, organ removal is only permitted with express consent. A first attempt at an opt-out solution failed in the Bundestag in 2020.

The new initiative will be presented by MPs Sabine Dittmar (SPD), Gitta Connemann (CDU), Armin Grau (Greens), Christoph Hoffmann (FDP), Peter Aumer (CSU) and Petra Sitte (Left Party). North Rhine-Westphalia recently made a move in this direction with several other states, which is currently being discussed in the Bundesrat. The reason for this is that there are still too few organ donations. Around 8,400 people are on waiting lists as a result.

Criticism even before presentation of the new plans

Objections have already been raised to a new attempt at an opt-out solution. FDP legal politician Katrin Helling-Plahr told the German Press Agency that this would be a massive infringement on the right of self-determination of every individual. “Instead of relying on state paternalism, we should make the self-determined decision about a donation more binding. We will discuss in the German Bundestag how a binding or obligatory decision-making solution can be designed.”

The chairman of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, told the “Augsburger Allgemeine”: “Those who remain silent do not automatically consent.” In principle, any medical intervention without the consent of the person concerned is bodily harm. In the model countries in Europe with significantly more organ donors, organizational and structural measures have led to increasing numbers. “That is why we now need financial incentives for hospitals, an efficient transplant network, educational programs and training for coordinators in dealing with relatives.”

First attempt failed four years ago

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) is also in favor of an opt-out solution. As a member of parliament, he, like the then minister Jens Spahn (CDU), advocated this in the 2020 Bundestag vote.

At that time, however, a law was passed that confirmed the principle of consent. It provides more information and easier documentation of declarations of willingness to donate.

However, a central online register as a core element of the law only started two years late in March 2024. The Corona crisis was also a reason for the delays. Around 130,000 declarations have been entered into the register so far, as the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, the operator, announced upon request.

At www.organspende-register.de, users aged 16 and over can document whether or not they are willing to donate organs after death. You can register first by using an ID card with an online function. The information is voluntary, free of charge and can be changed at any time.

From July 1, clinics that remove organs will be able to search for and access declarations stored in the register. Declarations on paper, for example in organ donor cards, will also still be possible.

Source: Stern

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