Switzerland Makes a Move to Shrink Organ Transplant List

Organ donation will become opt-out instead of opt-in
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2022 5:40 PM CDT
Switzerland Does a 180 on Its Organ Donation Approach
   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Switzerland has just taken a big step in its quest to shrink its organ transplant waiting list backlogs. Under its new model, all residents will be considered potential donors after death unless they have opted out, a reverse from the current set-up, in which people opt-in while still alive. The new "presumed consent" model was a decision of the people, with 60% of voters coming out in favor of it in a Sunday referendum. The Guardian reports the ins and outs: The new rule applies to those 16 and up who die in a hospital's ICU. In the event a person hasn't opted out, relatives can still prevent organ donation if they believe their loved one would have objected.

The new model won't take effect until 2024 at the soonest, as the opt-out register will need to be created. The country of 8.6 million people has about 1,400 people on the organ transplant waiting list, and 72 people died while on the list last year. Swissinfo reports parliament approved the amendment last year, but a midwife and a doctor who opposed the change and pulled in legal and religious supporters gathered the signatures needed to force a referendum.

The AFP reports they argued that ethics demand people give their explicit and informed consent to any procedure, and expressed concerns that the relatives of the deceased might feel they would appear selfish if they refused and therefore be pressured to consent against their wishes. The US employs an opt-in model. Per Organdonor.gov, there are nearly 106,000 Americans on the national organ transplant waiting list. (Read more organ donation stories.)

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