Organ donation: Bundestag nixes opt-out solution

The German parliament on Thursday voted against a law aimed at alleviating organ shortages in transplantation medicine. The draft stipulated that all those who do not explicitly refuse to donate their organs should be automatically treated as potential donors. Now the opposite situation will remain unchanged: there can be no donations without explicit approval. The highly controversial nature of the issue is reflected in the German-language press.

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Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

You can't force solidarity

The editor-in-chief of the Frankfurter Rundschau, Bascha Mika, welcomes the Bundestag's decision:

“On an existential subject that is quite literally a matter of life and death, the deputies reinforced a fundamental human right. The state may not decide what happens with people's bodies, even if it is seeking to do good and reduce suffering. ... As much as humaneness dictates that we fight for the survival of desperate patients waiting for a transplant, you can't force people to show solidarity with them, or challenge the inviolability of the body.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

State must force people to make decision

Democracies are duty-bound to demand that their citizens make a decision regarding donating their organs, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung argues:

“Democracy lives from active, informed citizens who act freely and responsibly. Freedom and democracy require the ability to assess the value and consequences of a decision. The state should not decide the direction, but it can demand that citizens confront important issues. ... Each of these restrictions must be reviewed continually, and they are not a justification for future limitations. But they can encourage people to see the freedom of the individual in the light of a higher purpose. In this case it's about the lives of thousands and the duty of the state to stand up for everyone - including the sick.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Bad news for Europe as a whole

Austria already has an opt-out solution regarding organ donation. Der Standard laments that the Bundestag has now voted against it:

“Too bad the German Health Minister Jens Spahn failed with a similar proposal [to that in Austria]. The German decision has implications across Europe, because this medically advanced country that can carry out transplants will now have to procure the organs from other countries. Already in the past, organ shortages in Germany have led to unsavoury discussion about how to allocate the available organs. Those who will suffer most from the decision are the countless people on the waiting lists. The task of Germany's politicians should have been to defend the interests of these weakest members of society. This historic opportunity has now been thrown away.”