According to statistics published by Swiss Transplant, three people died per week waiting for organs over the first quarter of 2016, up from two a week previously. The problem largely stems from a lack of organ donors. At the end of September 2016, more than 1,500 patients were on a growing organ-waiting list. At the same time the number of donors fell.
In September 2016, Switzerland’s minister of Health, Alain Berset, told 20 Minutes that he had decided to become a donor. Berset has been outspoken about his desire for people to think about whether they would like to be an organ donor in the event of death, tell their families about it, and get a donor card.
In Switzerland, organ donation requires explicit consent from the donor or close family. Dr Franz Immer said that because most families don’t know the wishes of potential donors, 60% end up refusing. Except for Germany, all other neighbouring countries have a system which presumes consent. In France, for example, the need to consult close family was dropped on 1 January 2017. Even before then, only one third refused, far lower than the 60% in Switzerland.
In 2014 and in 2015, national councillors put forward parliamentary proposals in favour of presumed consent. While a majority of the National Council was in favour, the Council of States was opposed.
According to Dr Immer, there is a target of 20 donors per million inhabitants by 2018, compared to 14.4 in 2014 and 17.4 in 2015. Unfortunately, the number fell to 11.7 in 2016. In France there are between 23 and 25. Dr Immer thinks the Swiss numbers are so low that the issue will return to the political agenda before 2018, adding that 85% of Switzerland’s population are favourable to organ donation, according to Swiss Transplant’s most recent poll.