Germany still has too few organ donors after scandal

An organ donation scandal that rocked Germany several years ago is still having ripple effects as too few people are signing up to become donors to meet medical needs.

Germany still has too few organ donors after scandal
Photo: DPA.

Around 10,000 people are currently waiting for an organ donation in Germany. But last year, just 877 organs were donated.

A major reason behind the low number of donors is a scandal that erupted in 2012. A doctor in Göttingen was investigated for falsifying medical documents to speed up the process for his patients who needed organ transplants. Prosecutors argued that his actions may have even cost the lives of others who needed the transplants more urgently.
He was accused of attempted manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, but it could not be proved who exactly had died as a result of the data manipulation. Ultimately he was acquitted, but the case also led to further discoveries of other doctors describing their patients as more severely ill than they were, or changing other health details, to move them up the waiting list.
Since then the number of organ donations has dropped, as people have felt discouraged to participate, said Health Minister Hermann Gröhe.
“The current numbers show that the trust that was lost can only be won back slowly,” said Gröhe.
“More than 10,000 seriously ill people in Germany are desperately waiting for organ donations. Every eight hours, someone on the waiting list dies because no suitable organ has been found.”
The number of organ donations in 2015 – 877 – was an increase on 2014 when there were 864 donations. But before the 2012 scandal, 1,200 organs were donated in 2011 and 1,296 were donated in 2010.
More than two-thirds (69 percent) of Germans say that they would personally donate an organ, according to Gröhe. And yet just one third (32 percent) of Germans have an organ donor card.
“We must continue to objectively inform people about it and promote organ donations,” Gröhe said.
German Medical Association (BÄK) president Frank Ulrich Montgomery also called for more information to the public about organ donation.
Montgomery also said that the 2012 scandal was only one reason behind the sinking organ donations, pointing to inadequate funding as being another.
Doctors also hope a centralized and transparent transplant register – adopted by the German cabinet this year – will help to dismantle the public’s reservations about organ donations. Both statutory and private health insurance firms must also now inform clients who are 16 or older about becoming an organ donor every two years.

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