Organ donation: What does an opt-out solution mean?

Organ donation: What does an opt-out solution mean?
Organ donation: What does an opt-out solution mean?

Many people are in favor of organ donation. Surveys show that they would make their 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 on Monday morning. It is about the “introduction of an opt-out rule”.

What is the “objection rule”?

All people should be considered donors – unless they object.

What rules currently apply in Germany regarding organ donation?

At the moment, organ removal is only permitted with explicit consent. A first attempt at an opt-out solution failed in the Bundestag in 2020.

Who is taking the initiative?

The new initiative is to be presented by MPs Sabine Dittmar (SPD), Gitta Connemann (CDU), Armin Grau (Greens), Christoph Hoffmann (FDP), Peter Aumer (CSU) and Petra Sitte (Left). North Rhine-Westphalia recently made a move in this direction with several other states, which is currently being discussed in the Bundesrat. 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 Connemann.

How are the new plans being discussed?

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

FDP legal politician Katrin Helling-Plahr, on the other hand, told the German Press Agency that she believes an opt-out solution 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.”

What does Health Minister Karl Lauterbach say?

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also supports the opt-out solution. As a member of parliament, he, like then-minister Jens Spahn (CDU), advocated for it in the 2020 Bundestag vote. At that time, however, a law was passed that confirmed the consent principle. It provides for more information and easier documentation of declarations of willingness to donate.

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What happened to the planned organ donation register?

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 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 on request. Users aged 16 and over can document whether or not they are willing to donate organs after death. You can initially register 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.

How many people are waiting for a donor organ in Germany?

There are clearly too few organ donations in Germany. Around 8,400 people are on the waiting list for a donor organ.

Source: Stern

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