September 23, 2020

Germany rejects automatic organ donation and gives wings to green formula

Germany rejected the bill that would have made, by default, every citizen a potential organ donor, in exchange for a proposal from the Greens that will require express consent, in a country still in the European-tailed van in that appearance.

The formula defended by the Minister of Health, the conservative Jens Spahn, similar to the Spanish model – world leader in donation and organ transplants – did not achieve a parliamentary majority: 292 deputies voted in favor, compared to 379 against.

Yes, however, the proposal defended by the leader of the Greens, Annalena Baerbock, also aimed at alleviating the clear German deficit in the field of transplants, but without entering into the automatism of considering donor to anyone who has not explicitly expressed Your rejection

Baerbock’s formula will involve regularly asking all citizens over 16 years of age for that consent – every ten years or when renewing their identity card. And it will be accompanied by informative campaigns in medical consultations. For the green leader, the real obstacle to organ donation in Germany is not the lack of availability of citizens, but the bureaucratic obstacles in hospital practice.

Despite sharing with the Minister, of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Angela Merkel, the objective of activating donations, Baerbock argued that the bill involved falling into simplification or automation before something relevant such as proceeding with the body of A person after his death.


Baerbock got 432 support, compared to 200 votes against. A result that also supposes a victory for the party to which the polls place as second force at national level, after the conservative block of Merkel, and in a position to fight for the Foreign Ministry in the general planned for 2017.

Spahn fitted his defeat with a “logical personal disappointment,” he admitted to the media after the vote. But he was encouraged by majority support for the shared goal that “save lives” and get Germany out of the current organ donation deficit.

Today, an estimated 9,400 patients expect an organ transplant in the country. “In no other area of ​​German public health is there a delay as in this one,” the minister had argued when asking for the camera’s support for his project.

“The willingness to donate organs must become normal,” he said. And he insisted, before the detractors of the automatisms, that “anyone can refuse to be a donor, it is enough to declare it and it is not necessary to argue for what reason.”


The parliamentary debate was marked by the polarization between both proposals, that of the minister and that of the Greens, presented with the support of The Left. For that matter, the parliamentarians had been released from party discipline, so that each could vote according to their conscience.

From Merkel’s conservative ranks there were almost as many interventions in favor as against the minister’s bill. Notable were the interventions of two Health extitlers – the social democrat Ulla Schmidt and the conservative Hermann Gröte -, both contrary to Spahn’s automatism.

The parliamentary opposition was also divided between the option of the minister, the rise of the Greens or the rejection of both.


The case of Spain became a reference for the debate, both for the defenders of Spahn’s bill and for his adversaries. In Spain, the law has been in force since 2012 according to which every citizen is a potential donor, if there is no express evidence of their rejection. The donation quota is 48 donors per million citizens, the highest in the EU; in Germany, the figure is 9.7 donors, the lowest in the block.

For detractors of Spahn’s formula, Germany cannot claim to “export” the successful Spanish model. Other European countries where similar systems also govern – such as Bulgaria – are below the European average when it comes to organ donation. To expedite transplants, Germany must be provided with an “efficient hospital system such as Spanish,” Baerbock said.

Gemma Casadevall


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