More than 10,000 people in Germany are currently waiting for a donor organ, 8,000 of them for a kidney – according to the latest Eurotransplant statistics. This is three times the number of people who can be provided with a kidney transplant. And the situation is not expected to improve. Quite the opposite: last year, the number of organ donations dropped to a historic low.
The reasons for this are varied. The work required by clinics in connection with the donation and removal of organs is very time-consuming and costly. The scandals related to transplants in recent years have also reduced the people’s willingness to donate.
Different legal regimes within the EU
And finally, the number of donors is also affected by statutory provisions. Spain, for example, has been the EU leader in the number of organ donations for several years now. In Spain – as in some other European countries – the objection mechanism applies. This means that unless a deceased person has expressly objected to the removal of their organs during their lifetime, they have tacitly agreed to the donation.
Germany’s position is based on the consent solution. Accordingly, the recovery of organs is only permitted if an explicit consent has been expressed, based on a thorough consideration of a person’s own willingness to donate. The situation is similar in countries such as Denmark, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. In these countries, too, no organ may be removed unless that person’s consent is documented in an organ donor declaration or a living will. If the deceased has not taken a decision during his/her lifetime, constructive consent can be given by the relatives. However, for relatives this situation means an additional burden. Having to cope not only with the loss of a wife, a father or sister, they are also compelled to decide in their names for or against the donation of organs. Simply in consideration of one’s relatives, one should complete an organ donor declaration. For further information, please see the Fact Box provided by AOK, the local statutory medical insurance fund.
The organ donor card – always carry it in your wallet!
As fast actions are required in case of an emergency, you should always carry your organ donor card with you. On the card, you can specify organs that may be recovered from your body, and which ones must remain. You can get the card free of charge in doctors’ practices and pharmacies, as well as from the German Organ Transplantation Foundation (DSO). It can also be downloaded here from the AOK Lower Saxony website.
What assurances do you have as a donor?
Post mortem organ donation will be performed only if two physicians have independently verified that the deceased person has suffered an irreversible cessation of brain function (brain death). The term ‘brain death’ describes a particular condition where the overall functioning of the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brainstem has finally and irreversibly ceased. With the diagnosis of brain death, a person is confirmed to be dead with certainty.