Israelis to become organ donors by default?

Health minister pushes legislation to automatically sign up citizens to transplant bank on renewal of driver’s license

Health Minister Yael German (photo credit: Flash90)
Health Minister Yael German (photo credit: Flash90)

If Health Minister Yael German gets her way, all Israeli citizens will become potential organ donors unless they explicitly state their desire not to.

According to a Haaretz report Monday, German is pushing to add a new clause to the 2008 Organ Transplant Law, stipulating that every citizen who renews their driver’s license automatically be added to the organ donor database, unless they sign a form stating otherwise.

“There are many people in Israel who do not sign an organ donor card because they cannot find the time to fill out and send the registration form,” German was quoted as saying.

The National Transplant Center‘s 2012 annual report, published in February, revealed a decrease in the number of people willing to donate organs alongside a rise in the number of people on the transplants list.

According to the report, only 57 families agreed to have their brain-dead loved one’s organs donated to people in need, a 36 percent drop from the previous year. The report also found that, at 50%, Israel is among the developed world’s leaders in refusing consent for donations, well ahead of France (32%), Italy, (31%), US (22%), Spain (16.8%) Ireland (8.2%), and Hungary (4.3).

Most Jews believe Jewish Law permits organ donation in the case of cardiac death. A handful of ultra-Orthodox rabbis reject donation on any grounds and, in 2009, issued followers an anti-donor card, explicitly forbidding hospitals from harvesting their organs for any purpose after death.

Israel currently provides a potential medical benefit to those who sign organ donor cards, giving preference in receiving transplants to those who do.

Other countries who have opt-out systems for organ donations include Austria, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, and Belgium.

The Health Ministry is reportedly also promoting a law that would enable organ harvesting from an organ donor without the family’s consent. The new law would replace the current system by which the family is asked to agree to the harvest with a new system that would necessitate the family to sign a donation refusal form. The proposal seeks to cope with situations where the deceased desire to donate is superseded by the family’s refusal.

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