Organ donation readiness should be queried

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Letter from the health insurance companies to inquire about the willingness to donate organs

Organ donations in Germany are far from sufficient to provide all those in need with a donor organ. In fact, according to the experts, far more people would be willing to donate organs, but there are no written explanations that allow the appropriate removal of organs after death.

The Federal Government has therefore decided to regularly query all Germans about their willingness to donate organs. In the future, all citizens will receive a cover letter in which they can tick "yes" or "no" in order to state their attitude towards a possible organ removal. However, there is no obligation to comment. If you don't want to make a decision today, you can simply leave the cover letter unanswered. With the help of the query, the Federal Government hopes to significantly increase the willingness to donate organs as soon as possible in order to counteract the existing shortage.

The cover letter should ask for readiness to donate organs
Politicians have long agreed that organ readiness for donation should be checked regularly. Now the specialist politicians of all parties have agreed on a joint application to amend the law, according to which the statutory and private health insurance companies should ask all adult members in writing about their willingness to donate organs. A corresponding law is expected to be passed in the summer based on the group application. From then on, every German has to deal with the subject, which politicians hope could lead to a significant increase in willingness to donate. The insufficient number of organ donations should be increased significantly in the short term with the new law, according to the politicians. The cover letter promotes organ donation and insured persons can use “yes” to declare their willingness to have their organs removed after their death or reject them with “no”. It should also be possible to express the willingness to donate special organs without allowing a general removal of organs. Furthermore, certain organs can also be expressly excluded. A confirmation of the willingness to donate organs will be recorded in writing on an organ donation card as before. Those who are undecided or do not want to answer the cover letter for other reasons can simply ignore this. There is no obligation to comment.

Increase in the willingness to donate organs
After the parliamentarians have agreed on a common approach, the first steps should now be implemented as soon as possible. The first cover letters could therefore be sent out by mid-2013. From mid-2015, a corresponding cover letter is planned every two years. This puts an end to the previous procedure for declaring willingness to donate organs. This was essentially based on the initiative of people who were ready to have their organs removed after their death. Although everyone was able to document their recruitment in an organ donation card, it was only issued on their own request. As a result, many who were actually willing to donate did not record their willingness to donate organs anywhere. Surveys have shown that almost 70 percent of Germans have no objection to organ removal after their death, but only 20 percent have an organ donation card. With the regular letters from the insured, the politicians are now hoping to close this gap and significantly increase the number of organ donations. This last suffered a significant slump (minus 7.4 percent) in 2011, after in 2010 - also due to the media attention from the kidney donation from Frank Walter Steinmeier (SPD parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag) for his wife - to the previous record organ donation has been achieved. According to the German Organ Transplantation Foundation, the number of donors last year was around 1,200.

12,000 patients are waiting for a donor organ
According to current plans, the willingness to donate organs should not only be saved in an organ donation card but also on the electronic health card, according to the planning. In order to keep the process as simple as possible, the insured should also be given the option of documenting willingness to donate organs at the relevant terminals, for example at the doctor's own initiative. If the letter was answered, this would be covered by the health insurance. In the current debate, Federal Health Minister Daniel Bahr (FDP) once again expressed how important organ donation is for potential recipients. "Every organ donor is a lifesaver," emphasized Bahr, referring to the approximately 12,000 patients who are currently still on the waiting lists for a donor organ. The spokeswoman for the Green Parliamentary Group for Nursing Policy said that it was particularly important for her party that the discussion should also be carried into the family with the post. The spokesmen for the CDU (Jens Spahn) and SPD (Carola Reimann) were confident the law significantly increases the willingness to donate organs, not least because people are confronted with the issue of organ donation much more often.

Amendment to the Transplantation Act
However, the change in the so-called Transplantation Act, which only has to pass through the Bundestag, is likely to have an even more decisive influence on the willingness to donate organs than the current decisions. The willingness in the clinics and hospitals to support organ donation should be sustainably increased. In the past, far too few clinics had contacted the responsible coordination center in an emergency, also because there were too few incentives for hospitals to participate in organ donation, according to the criticism of the German Ethics Council years ago. (fp)

Read on:
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