Brussels, 08 July 2002
Minister Jean-François Mattei recently spoke to Le Figaro about how changes in the approach to organ donation could save French lives. First, he dispels the notion that the obstacle is lack of scientific knowledge – the real problem is a lack of information about the options.
Organ donation is a subject close to Minister Mattei’s heart. As a medical doctor and former Health Minister in France during the 1990s, he tried to pass legislation allowing donor consent to be noted on a person’s public health record. This was opposed on the grounds it violated individual medical privacy.
But, with some 7 000 people in France awaiting potentially lifesaving organ transplants, Dr Mattei pressed on. And now, as a member of parliament, he has outlined a new plan to systematically inform people between the ages of 18 and 30 about organ transplantation, and ask for their consent.
The difficult part of the campaign is what to do with the replies. The responses would not be recorded in an official sense, but the names of those objecting added to a list of ‘objectors’ which would, presumably, be reviewed in the event of death. The 1976 law, assuming the deceased’s consent unless stated otherwise, effectively still applies. The new plan should promote the issue of organ transplant shortages in France, while breathing life into the 1976 law that, according to reports, has been undermined by doctors who continue to ask for consent from family members.
What about other EU countries?
The ‘presumption of consent’ for organ donations is not exclusive to France.
Swedish law also presumes consent unless otherwise stated by the individual, but includes a veto clause should the family of the deceased wish to object.
In contrast, organ donors in the UK must carry a special donor card allowing doctors to use their organs upon death. UK driving licences also note whether the holder is on the National Health Scheme (NHS) Organ Donor Registry.