Switzerland: opt-out solution for organ donation?

A popular initiative aimed at introducing an "opt-out" system for organ donation has been launched in Switzerland. If a corresponding law were passed, the organs of all deceased persons would be available for transplant unless that person had stipulated otherwise. Swiss media are at odds over the moral and practical consequences of the system, which is already used in several countries.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Free relatives of responsibility

The introduction of the opt-out solution solves a major social problem, writes the Tages-Anzeiger:

“Only 16 percent of people in Switzerland have an organ donor card. The burden is on the relatives: in the event of death, they have to decide under time pressure whether their deceased loved ones should have their organs removed. When they are not sure what to do - in 60 percent of cases - they decide against it. With the opt-out solution, we solve this dilemma by reversing the principle: those who want to donate organs after their death no longer have to explicitly state this during their lifetime. They only have to do so if they do not want to donate. The organ donation initiative aims to introduce in Switzerland what has long been standard practice in other European countries.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Don't make it a moral duty

The opt-out solution is an invasion of privacy, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung fears:

“It ceases to have anything to do with a voluntary act of charity, which is what organ donation should be, and has much more to do with an encroachment by the state. ... Contrary to what applies today, the body would no longer belong to a person unconditionally, but above all have to be useful to society. We should not harbour any illusions: with the opt-out solution, organ donation would be elevated to the status of a moral duty; it would gradually become a gentle dictate. It would not be surprising if things got to the point where one has to justify oneself for wanting to remain intact as a dead person.”