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Lifesaver Still too few organs being donated

Organs can be living saving - here a heart is being taken out of a refrigerated box ahead of a transplant operation in the University Children's Hospital in Zurich

(Keystone)

There are not enough organs being donated in Switzerland, despite efforts to encourage people to do so. Now, Swiss authorities want to know why.

A national action planexternal link launched in 2013 set the goal to 20 deceased donors per one million inhabitants by 2018 – up from 12 in 2012. But the current level is 17.4, the home affairs ministry wrote in a statementexternal link on Friday.

“The action plan goal will therefore most probably not be reached, despite the processes and structures as well as the financing being improved over the last years,” the statement said.

The 17.4 figure refers to 2015 – the best year for organ donation, experts have pointed out. In 2016, the rate actually stood at 13.3.

On a European level, Switzerland is in the bottom third for organ donation. Neighbours France and Italy, as well as Portugal, already have more than 20 deceased organ donors per one million inhabitants. Spain even has reached 35.9 donors.

By the end of last year, there were 1,480 Swiss residents waiting for transplants – 38% more than in 2010.

Graphic showing waiting times.
(swissinfo.ch)

Why?

Part of the problem is that many relatives refuse to donate a loved one’s organs. The national health policy dialogueexternal link, which is in charge of the action plan, has therefore commissioned the five organ donation networks in Switzerland to find out why. They have until spring 2018 to present the results of their research.

To donate organs in Switzerland you need to ‘opt-in’ via a donor card, which sets out your wishes to your relatives.

In October, the launch was announced of a people's initiative to reverse this model: it calls for everyone to be considered a potential donor unless they have expressly said otherwise during their lifetime.

The non-profit Swisstransplant Foundation said it would support the plans, which were launched by the Swiss chapter of the Junior Chamber International – a group of young entrepreneurs.

It is estimated that in 60% of cases, relatives refuse to donate their loved one’s organs, despite 85% of the population saying they would be in favour of organ donation, the initiative’s backers said.

Two years ago, parliament rejected proposals for a policy change amid opposition by the government’s advisory commission on biomedical ethics. It argued that the so-called presumed consent model of organ donation jeopardises individual rights.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ilj

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