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HEALTH

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

The Bundestag has voted against a proposal for a new 'presumed consent' organ donation system.

Bundestag votes against 'opt-out' system of organ donation in Germany
An organ donor card. Photo: DPA

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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HEALTH

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination. 

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