Parliament accepts principle of organ donation consent

Almost 1,500 people are waiting for a transplant in Switzerland – a number which has risen by more than a third in ten years Keystone / Leandre Duggan

The Swiss parliament has agreed to reform the national organ donation system, moving from explicit to presumed consent. The issue is due to go to a nationwide vote at a later date.

This content was published on September 21, 2021 - 12:08

On Monday, the Senate followed an earlier vote by the House of Representatives in favour of the government’s indirect counterproposal to the popular initiative “Promote organ donation – save lives”, presented in 2019.

The initiative seeks to amend the constitution to reverse the explicit ‘opt-in’ policy of consent by a potential organ donor and introduce the principle of presumed consent. With presumed consent, organs may be removed from a deceased person if the person did not object during their lifetime.

The government’s indirect counterproposal, however, allows for a broader application of presumed consent: a person should make it known during their lifetime if they are opposed to organ donation and, if nothing attests to it, their loved ones will always be consulted.

Most European countries use the presumed consent model.

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In Switzerland, where demand for organs outstrips supply, organ donation after death is presently governed by an explicit model of consent: those who have given their consent while still alive are deemed to be donors, with the family systematically asked for their opinion.

Swisstransplant, the national foundation for organ donation and transplant, says such a restrictive approach exacerbates the shortage of organs that the country has long faced. Each week, an average of two people die because they have not received an organ in time.

The number of deceased organ donorsExternal link in Switzerland (around 150 per year, or 18 per million inhabitants) is rising but remains inferior to the demand. Almost 1,500 people are waiting for a transplant – a number which has risen by more than a third in ten years. In addition, the number of organs transplanted from deceased donors declined from 500 in 2019, to 460 in 2020.

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