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Publiforum stresses transparency on transplantation issues

Doctors test the vein of a kidney for leaks during a kidney transplant operation

(Keystone)

At the end of a three-day conference in Berne, members of the public and experts published their recommendations to the federal government concerning cell, tissue and organ transplantation.

The government is in the process of drafting new legislation on the issue.

The group, made up of 30 citizens of varying ages from around the country, were brought together to debate the ethical, social, financial and legal questions surrounding transplantation in Switzerland. Principally, the panel agreed that the government should work harder to educate and inform the public about the controversial subject of transplantation.

Sergio Bellucci of the Swiss Science and Technology Council, who was one of the experts to take part in the discussions, told swissinfo that improved communication with the public will help Swiss hospitals respond to the country's shortage of available organs. He says that if the medical community increases its outflow of information and encourages dialogue about death, "there will be an increase in the number of organ donors."

The group also recommended that hospitals should provide psychological support for the family members of organ donors before, during and after organ removal and transplantation.

One of the other main points of discussion during the forum was the definition of death. The group agreed that the removal of cells, tissue and organs can take place when a patient has been declared officially brain dead, although they would prefer the law to state, "irrevocable cerebral function failure."

Bellucci says defining death was no easy task and that religious and spiritual issues, as well as questions of individual rights, figured strongly in the panel's debate. He says the group weighed ethical and social considerations as heavily as physiological issues while trying to come up with a definition.

Besides examining the practical and ethical questions surrounding transplantation, the group also came out in favour of continuing research into the development of artificial organs and the use of animal organs in humans.

They also called for more research into the prevention of illnesses and the promotion of tissue engineering. Tony Fierro, a sales engineer from Beringen who served on the panel, says he feels it was important to include ordinary citizens in the debate. He believes individual citizens lend "valuable input and a new perspective" to discussions which are often left up to legislators.


by Anna Nelson


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