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Swiss urged to carry more donor cards

Case study: Switzerland ranks fourth from bottom in Europe when it comes to organ donation


On National Organ Donor Day, Swiss cities have hosted various activities to promote awareness and provide information on something that the Swiss could do better.

Swisstransplant, the national coordination centre, set up information stands in stations at Basel, Bern, Geneva and Lausanne – the locations of transplant hospitals in Switzerland.

The aim of the day is to throw light on the organ donation process. To this end, people who have had transplants were on hand at the Swisstransplant stands to answer any questions about their experience.

The new transplantation law, which comes into effect on January 1 2007, will for the first time harmonise organ donation at a federal level. It is hoped that this will clarify the situation and the low rate of organ donation within Switzerland will rise.

At the moment laws differ from canton to canton. In some cantons, organs can only be removed if the donor gives permission before death. In other cantons, organs can, in theory, be used for transplants unless the affected person or next of kin explicitly say no.

Every year more than a dozen patients die, whom a transplant could have offered a longer life.

Last year 1,159 people were registered on the transplant waiting list in Switzerland – only 413 received transplants. The rest, some of whom had been waiting for years, continued to wait for the phone call that would change their lives. Thirty-eight people on the list died.

Donors wanted

Medical progress has made it possible for practically everyone – regardless of age – to be eligible to donate their organs.

According to surveys, 60 per cent of Swiss are in theory prepared to donate their organs, but in practice only ten per cent carry donor cards.

The aim is to increase this figure, as the more people who carry cards, the greater the likelihood a compatible organ will be found when needed.

As Swisstransplant says: "An organ donation is the most beautiful and most generous present you can give, as it can save lives."

Cultural differences

In July researchers at Lugano University claimed organ donations could be far more frequent in Switzerland if cultural differences between linguistic regions were taken better into account.

They found just over 13 per cent of the German-speaking population has an organ-donor card, far fewer than French speakers.

The researchers said that in German-speaking Switzerland, people tend to consider that individual choices play an important role in healthcare and they are more wary of transplantations.

The inhabitants of Ticino are not particularly enthralled with the thought of dying – few carry donor cards and just over half will agree to a donation – but they do consider it a duty to help others, and as a result there are more donors.

French-speakers consider organ donations in a less emotional fashion. Nearly a quarter have a donor card, and more than 70 per cent say they are prepared to donate an organ.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

In 2005, 1,159 people were waiting for an organ transplant in Switzerland.
413 actually received a transplant, while 38 others died before being operated.
780 people were on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, while 190 were hoping for a new liver.
Switzerland ranks fourth from bottom when it comes to organ donation in Europe.
The Spanish are the Europeans most likely to donate an organ.

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