High demand for organs raises ‘presumed consent’ issue

With neighbouring France introducing ‘presumed consent’ from 2017, Switzerland still requires consent from donors or their family before organs can be donated. The demand for organs in the country is at an all-time high. 

This content was published on January 5, 2017 - 15:09

Close to 1,498 Swiss residents were on a waiting list for organ donation at the end of September 2016, according to pro-organ donation group Swisstransplant. This is the highest number since 2010. 

The waiting period varies depending on the organ required. Those waiting for a heart transplant have to wait an average of 371 days, while those looking for a kidney have a wait of 1178 days. 

It is estimated that every week an average of two people on the waiting list die while waiting for an organ. According to a survey by Swisstransplant, 80% of Swiss are in favour of donating their organs. However, it is often relatives who become an obstacle when it comes to actual donation. Around half of the relatives refuse to give their permission for donating the organs of a loved one.

Presumed consent

 From January 1, 2017, doctors in France no longer have to seek the permission of relatives. They have a right to use the organs if the donor has not expressly refused to donate them. According to Eurotransplant, other European countries that operate under the presumed consent system include Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Luxembourg and Slovenia.

 In Switzerland, an organ may only be taken when the person affected or relatives have given their agreement. In 2015, parliament discussed presumed consent – whether it should be possible for organs to be donated after death unless someone had specifically forbidden it. This was voted down for ethical reasons.

 However, it was agreed that an action plan should be launched to counter the organ shortage, including an information campaign run by Swisstransplant. 

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