Switzerland changes organ donation rules — Analysis

In Switzerland, those who did not explicitly ‘opt out’ during their lifetimes would now be assumed to have consented to have their organs taken for transplant upon their deaths, following a referendum on Sunday.

About 60 percent of Swiss voted for the government-backed measures, and just under 40 percent of eligible voters voted. Because the new rules are not yet in force, the government must inform citizens about the changes and establish a database for those who wish to withdraw from them.

The rules change will not apply to anyone 16 years or older. According to AFP the organs cannot be removed from patients who are deceased in the ICU, or were confirmed as dead by two doctors.

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The government expects the measure to increase the number of organ donations, after 72 people died in 2021 while waiting for a transplant. Swisstransplant says that 1434 patients are on Switzerland’s donor organ waiting list, and 484 transplant recipients received their transplants by 2021. 

Alex Frei (a former doctor) led the group of activists who advocated for regulation of public voting. They questioned whether it was ethical to assume consent from a patient in order to perform a medical procedure.

The referendum result “confirmed the positive attitude that [authorities] had always felt among the Swiss population when it comes to organ donation,”Alain Berset, Interior Minister, stated Sunday.

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Frei stated that the results were distorted by misinformation about organ donation and people not understanding the process. “cold bodies”According to Swissinfo, brain-dead patients are kept alive in ICUs and in freezers.

Family members of the deceased will still have a say under the new rules, although critics claim it would place additional strain on the relatives who might feel forced not to object. Supporters, on the contrary, believe that pressing a grieving family to make decisions on behalf of their loved one is much more stressful. It was considered a superior alternative to another proposal without the requirement to consult family members.

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