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Swiss do not donate enough organs

A new report says 30 people died unnecessarily in Switzerland last year because they failed to receive organ transplants in time. A total of 956 people were on waiting lists for transplant operations, but only 413 could get the organs they needed.

This content was published on March 30, 2000 - 17:56

A new report says 30 people died unnecessarily in Switzerland last year because they failed to receive organ transplants in time. A total of 956 people were on waiting lists for transplant operations, but only 413 could get the organs they needed.

The vast majority of transplants were of kidneys (251), followed by livers (75), and hearts (47).

According to research by the association, Swisstransplant, the country comes at the bottom of the European table of organ donors. There are only 14.4 donors per million Swiss. Spain is at the top of the list, with 40 donors per million; in Austria the figure is 24.9, and in Belgium 23.

Six per cent of transplanted organs in Switzerland come from outside the country. "We are nine or ten times more likely to be an organ recipient than an donor", said Christine Zimmermann of Swisstransplant.

Zimmermann said that while it was possible to be an organ donor up to the age of 75, the average donor age in Switzerland was 39.

Swisstransplant has welcomed a new legal project which aims to encourage organ donors. However, the association does not believe that setting up a central database of donors is necessary, since this will replicate Swisstransplant's existing role.

According to Trix Heberlein, the organisation's president, Swisstransplant would be prepared to play a co-ordinating role in any new organ donation framework.

Heberlein said that a national transplant commission should replace the current cantonal commissions. This commission would include medical specialists, to enable it to keep up with developments in the transplant field.

Swisstransplant is also against the proposed centralised system of organ distribution.

Dr François Mosimann, of the University Hospital in Lausanne, said a centralised system would not be the most effective way to ensure smooth transplants. He said that local transplant centres should keep their autonomy, particularly in choosing the most appropriate donor for the recipient.

Mosimann agreed with the Swisstransplant approach, which combines a donor card system with encouraging doctors to ask the next of kin whether the deceased was a willing donor.

swissinfo with agencies

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