56 000 patients are waiting for an organ transplant in Europe. 12 people die every day while waiting for transplantation according to the European Commission. One of those that were waiting, my children’s cousin, got his heart last week. A little boy who luckily was not one of those that died while waiting. Others just run out of time because there is not organs enough.
A European Commission proposal for a directive is on the table and the Spanish Presidency who takes over after Sweden 1 of January 2010 will prioritize this issue. Spain has reason to be proud over their work in this field having managed to increase the rate of transplantations quite substantially by ensuring a good organization of the healthcare system with regard to this issue. The Commission has also put forward a 10 points action plan. Most of the points are purely organizational for the healthcare system and there is a lot to be done to ensure the well needed maximum efficiency from staff and administration.
But out of these 10 no 4 is being a little different since it says, “improve the knowledge and communication skills of health professionals and patient support groups on organ transplantation.” And this is really key to actually get the organs needed. In some countries, the government does assume that diseased are willing to donate unless they have stated otherwise but it is not the general rule. It is just not enough with the best possible organization of healthcare to ensure enough transplants – people has to be willing to donate as well! Therefore, people need to be recruited to the donation registers. The issue is how to do this.
The obvious way is to put a face on those 56 000 waiting. Daniel Westerling who is soon to be married to the crown princess of Sweden has recently undergone an acute kidney transplantation. The media attention around his operation led to 5 times as many people as normal signing up for the Swedish transplantation registry. Similar increases occur every time there is real media attention around transplantations. The Swedish record in new registrations of donors is from 2006 when an 8 year old girl died in the queue for a new heart. If 12 people die every day while waiting for a new organ, why do we learn about so few of them? And why do people have to die before we register?
If you want to find out how to register in your country this link summary from Scandiatransplant is excellent.