MKs debate making organ donation an opt-out process

MKs debate making organ donation an opt-out process

Legislation would allow organs to be harvested after death automatically — even if the deceased doesn’t have a donor card

Doctors perform a liver transplant, April 7, 2003 (file photo: Flash90)
Doctors perform a liver transplant, April 7, 2003 (file photo: Flash90)

A Knesset member has proposed a bill, to be discussed Sunday during a meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which would automatically register Israelis as organ donors unless they specifically opt out.

Currently, only those who have formally registered as a donor will have his or her organs harvested after death. Just 13 percent of Israelis carry an organ donor card, one of the lowest figures among Western industrialized nations.

Under the proposed law, based on a model already in place in several European countries, registration as a donor would be automatic at age 18, unless a form providing the option to decline is filled out and returned to the government.

If the bill is signed into law, all citizens over the age of 18 will receive the option to decline to become donors before it goes into effect, with the option to opt out at any time. The bill also includes a provision for family members to refuse to let organs be harvested from their deceased close relatives if they so choose.

Over 1,000 people in the country are currently awaiting organ transplants, but around 100 could die while awaiting the procedure due to a lack of donors, according to Health Ministry statistics.

MK Merav Michaeli (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
MK Merav Michaeli (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

MK Merav Michaeli of Labor, the bill’s main sponsor, said that the measure is a way to “save many lives” without increased “bureaucratic procedures.” The measure was co-sponsored by Yariv Levin (Likud) and Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home).

Health Minister Yael German (Yesh Atid) expressed her opposition to the bill on Sunday. In a press statement, she argued that it was unethical to impose donations as the default option.

German also noted that “the basic approach of the medical establishment in Israel today is [already] to assume that the deceased has agreed to donate organs. Based on that assumption, each and every family is contacted in order to receive approval to donate the organs” — for deceased who have not already signed on for organ donation. Thus, Israel already has a de facto opt-out system in place.

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