Fill out an organ donor card Â© Julia Steinbrecht (KNA)
The German Organ Transplant Foundation sees a glimmer of hope: For the first time since 2010, the number of organ donations has increased again. Hospitals in particular made a contribution to this success.
Is this already the turnaround? For the first time since 2010, the number of organ donations in Germany has risen noticeably again. 955 people donated their organs after death in 2018, 155 people or 20 percent more than a year earlier.
3.113 organs were placed with patients in the eight European countries belonging to the network by the international organ procurement agency Eurotransplant. That is 519 organs more than in 2017, as the German Foundation for Organ Transplantation (DSO) announced in Frankfurt on Friday. In Germany itself – thanks to "imported" livers, kidneys, hearts and lungs from the Eurotransplant area – even 3.264 organs transplanted.
A glimmer of hope
The Medical Director of the DSO, Axel Rahmel, speaks of a glimmer of hope with regard to the 955 donors. The last time the number was higher was in 2012, when 1.046 donors. According to this, organ donation figures had fallen to a low of 797 donors by 2017. This had led to an intense debate about the transplant system in Germany: In early November, the federal cabinet passed a law to improve hospital procedures, strengthen the position of transplant officers and improve hospital reimbursement for organ removals. It should come into force by mid-2019.
At the same time, German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) kicked off a debate about obliging citizens to donate organs: according to his proposal, every citizen should be a potential organ donor unless they have objected to it during their lifetime. This would be a reversal of the current rule: currently in Germany, only those who have given their personal consent during their lifetime are donors. If there is no written declaration, relatives may also decide in favor of the donor.
Increased efforts by clinics
The DSO attributes the first increase in the number of organ donations to the increased efforts of hospitals. Scientific studies had previously shown that hospitals were the bottleneck responsible for the declining number of organ donations.
The DSO also complained that physicians and caregivers have "a significant information deficit," coupled with a "relatively high rejection of transplant medicine". In addition, the high economic and personnel prere leads to the fact that the clinics neglect the topic. Spahn also stressed that clinics are the crucial bottleneck: "The main problem with organ donation is not the willingness to donate. This has actually increased in recent years." According to the Federal Center for Health Education, more and more German citizens view organ donation positively. More people also possess a donor card – while 22 percent did so in 2012, the figure is currently 36 percent.
It is all the more remarkable that the 1.300 potential donor clinics in Germany have already stepped up their commitment to organ donation before the new law came into force. They would have given the coordinating body 2.811 messages about a possible organ donation to send, 26 per cent more than in the previous year, so Rahmel.
Comprehensive reporting system
He has high hopes for the new law: It addresses precisely the weak points, strengthens the position of the currently around 1.600 transplant officers, commits to more quality and commitment through a nationwide reporting system, anchors the care of relatives in the law for the first time and ensures that clinics are financed in line with their expenses, he said.
The DSO manager ames that 15 to 20 donors per million inhabitants would also be feasible in Germany in the medium term. This was shown by the donor figures in individual regions of the Federal Republic: In the eastern region, the rate is now already 16.8.
In 2018, there were 11.5 donors per million population. In 2017, Germany had slipped to second-to-last in the table in Europe, with 9.3 donors per million inhabitants.