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Health: Group of MPs calls for new organ donation rules

Health: Group of MPs calls for new organ donation rules
Health: Group of MPs calls for new 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. Now things are moving.

In the struggle for more organ donations in Germany, a new attempt to reform the donation rules is underway in the Bundestag. A group of MPs presented a cross-party initiative that aims to introduce a legal opt-out rule.

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

SPD MP Sabine Dittmar said: “We are simply not satisfied with the figures we have.” For years, organ donations have stagnated at a very low level. “Three people die every day on the waiting list.” In future, every adult who is able to give consent should be considered as a donor if they have consented or not objected. Relatives are still messengers and transmitters. Green MP Armin Grau said that they would be relieved of the burden of interpreting the presumed wishes of the deceased.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) welcomed the motion, which he had therefore co-signed as a member of parliament. “We have to be honest: unless we expect everyone to deal with this issue, the number of organ donations will not increase significantly.” Anyone who wants to put an end to “dying on the waiting list” should support the Bundestag initiative.

The group is aiming for a decision on the initiative in the Bundestag during this legislative period, if possible by spring 2025, said CDU MP Gitta Connemann. It is expected that there will also be another proposal. An open debate in the Bundestag and expert hearings are then planned.

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.

“We have a catastrophic situation”

NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) is in favor of changing the organ donation rules. “In Germany, perhaps 40 percent of people have an organ donor card. Surveys say 80 percent are in favor of organ donation,” said Laumann on ZDF’s “Morgenmagazin.” “We have a catastrophic situation on the waiting lists. Many people die before they get an organ.”

The CDU politician believes it is reasonable for people to consider the question of organ donation and to decide on it during their lifetime. “The decision of the individual is always morally acceptable – regardless of whether they decide for or against organ donation. I am sure that we will then have a much more positive attitude towards this issue.”

In the model countries in Europe with significantly more organ donors, only 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,” said the board of the German Foundation for Patient Protection.

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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