The Swiss vote on Sunday on a proposal to increase organ donations by switching to the model of presumed consent as in France, a principle denounced by some who evoke an ethical problem.

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Today, a person who wishes to donate their organs must give their consent during their lifetime. Anyone who does not wish to donate their organs will have to state this explicitly if – as the polls predict – the amendment to the law on transplantation is accepted.

Over the past five years, around 450 people per year on average have received in Switzerland – which has 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.

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, carried by the Federal Council (government) and Parliament, 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 it to his relatives.

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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.

Some people are opposed to the reform and have collected enough signatures to launch a referendum. This referendum committee, co-chaired by a nurse and a doctor, considers that the reform violates people’s right to self-determination and physical integrity.

Organ donation, says this committee backed by right-wing politicians, “is only ethically justifiable if the person concerned has given explicit consent during their lifetime.”

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