No need to have your donor card in your pocket. On Sunday, the Swiss accepted at the polls the proposal to increase organ donations thanks to the transition to the presumed consent model as in France. According to the final result, 60.20% of voters accepted the change in the law on transplantation.
Until now, a person wishing to donate their organs had to give their consent during their lifetime. From now on, those who do not wish to donate their organs will have to indicate this explicitly. Over the past five years, an average of around 450 people per year have received in Switzerland, a country with more than 8.6 million inhabitants, one or more organs removed from deceased persons. But, at the end of 2021, there were more than 1,400 people on the waiting list. Last year, 72 people died while waiting for a donation, according to the national foundation Swisstransplant.
Relatives will continue to be consulted
Currently, it often happens that the will of the person concerned is not known. It is therefore up to the relatives to decide. In the majority of cases, they oppose organ donation, according to the authorities. The refusal rate of more than 60% noted during interviews with relatives is one of the highest in Europe, even though polls show that 80% of the Swiss population is in favor of donating organs, says Swisstransplant. The reform provides that the Swiss will be considered as donors in the event of brain death unless they have expressed their opposition during their lifetime, by registering on a register of the Confederation or by notifying their relatives.
The medical conditions for making a donation will be the same as today: only people who die in the intensive care unit of a hospital can donate their organs, and the death must have been confirmed “unequivocally by two doctors. Relatives will continue to be consulted and they will be able to refuse any donation if they know or suspect that the person concerned would have objected. The Federal Council and Parliament expect the change in the law to increase the number of organ donations. According to the Swiss authorities, most European countries, notably France, Italy, Austria and Spain, apply the model of presumed consent, and record on average a higher percentage of donations than Switzerland.
Opposed to the reform, a committee, co-chaired by a nurse and a doctor and supported by right-wing politicians, had launched a referendum, arguing that the reform violates people’s right to self-determination and physical integrity. . Organ donation, this committee had indicated, “is only ethically justifiable if the person concerned has given his explicit consent during his lifetime”.