Bundestag votes against ‘opt-out’ system of organ donation in Germany

Bundestag votes against 'opt-out' system of organ donation in Germany
An organ donor card. Photo: DPA
The Bundestag has voted against a proposal for a new 'presumed consent' organ donation system.

It means the country’s organ donation laws, which require people to ‘opt-in’ to express explicit consent, will stay in place.

On Thursday, following an emotional debate, the Bundestag rejected plans from a group of MPs led by Health Minister Jens Spahn, of the Christian Democrats, and Social Democrats' health expert Karl Lauterbach.

They wanted to change the rules so that citizens in Germany would be asked to state whether they object to having their organs or tissue harvested after they are pronounced brain dead.

Those who say “no” would be listed in a national registry run by the Health Ministry, while all others would be considered potential donors – a principle in place across most of the EU.

In a roll-call vote, 379 MPs voted against the proposal, 292 supported it and three abstained.

Instead, there was a majority in favour of extending the current system but urging more people to opt-in.

The parliament backed the motion by a group led by Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock, Left Party leader Katja Kipping and Bundestag Vice-President Wolfgang Kubicki of the Free Democrats.

A total of 432 MPs voted in favour, 200 against and 37 abstained. In principle, the current regulation remains in force: organs and tissue may only be removed after death if the person concerned has given his or her consent during his or her lifetime, has an organ donor card or the relatives have agreed to the removal.

However, in a bid to shorten Germany's transplant waiting lists, people will be asked in future if they'd like to donate organs at least every 10 years, when renewing their national identity card.

They will also be able to register to donate with a new online register.

READ ALSO: Germany debates changing to 'opt-out' organ donation system

9,000 people waiting

Waiting lists for organs in Germany are getting longer, but the willingness to donate is declining.

According to figures from the German Foundation for Organ Donation, there were more than 1,300 donors in 2007 but in 2017 there were less than 900. A total of 932 people donated an organ last year.

More than 9,000 seriously ill people are currently on the organ waiting list in Germany. About 7,500 are waiting for a kidney. The rest hope for a heart, lung, liver or pancreas.

With 11.5 donors per million people, Germany's organ donation rate is fairly low compared to other countries. In Spain that number is 48, while it's 30.8 in the US.

Those who supported the 'opt-out' system said it would save lives.


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