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Organ Donation: Commission launches public consultation

European Commission - IP/06/852   27/06/2006

Other available languages: FR DE EL

IP/06/852

Brussels, 27 June 2006

Organ Donation: Commission launches public consultation

The European Commission has launched today a public consultation on future EU action in the area of organ donation and transplantation. The aim of the consultation is to identify the main problems encountered in organ donation and transplantation, to determine the extent to which measures should be taken at EU level to help to solve these problems and to invite ideas on what EU initiatives could be taken. Over the past decades, the number of organs donated and transplantations carried out in the EU has risen steadily, with good results in terms of life years gained and improvements in quality of life. However, the shortage of donors, organ trafficking and non-harmonised quality and safety standards are among the obstacles that could hamper further progress in this medical field. The consultation launched today will run until 15 September, after which the Commission will analyse the feedback with a view to deciding how to proceed with policy making on donation and transplantation at EU level.

Markos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: “Organ transplants are among the great medical miracles which save the lives of thousands of people across Europe every year. However, access to this life-saving treatment and its quality varies depending on which Member State you are in. Moreover, the scarcity and uneven distribution of organs encourages the dreadful and illegal practice of human organ trafficking. It is time to examine what action could be taken at EU level to help to secure a sufficient supply of organs, while also ensuring the full safety of this supply. “

Nearly 10 deaths a day due to organ shortages

Organ transplantation began in the 1950s with the first kidney transplants, and has increased steadily over the years. Today, organ transplantation is the most effective, and sometimes the only, treatment for end-stage renal, liver, lung and heart failure. However, a serious problem in the area of transplantation lies in the shortage of donated organs. Almost 10 people die every day in Europe while waiting for an organ, and the mortality rate in patients waiting for a heart, liver or lung transplant is between 15% and 30%. Currently, there are around 40 000 patients in Europe on waiting lists for an organ donation.

Across Europe, there are huge disparities in the number of organ donors, ranging from 34.6 donors per million population (ppm) in Spain to 13.8 ppm in the UK, 6 ppm in Greece and 0.5ppm in Romania. There are few exchanges of organs between Member States, and national requirements with regard to safety and quality procedures vary widely. In addition, the shortage of legally donated organs can encourage trafficking in human organs, which has both ethical and health implications.

EU policy on organs – what approach?

In the consultation paper published by the Commission today, 3 possible scenarios are outlined for future EU action with regard to organ donation and transplantation:

  1. To continue a limited number of basic projects already being carried out under different EU programmes (see MEMO/06/251).
  2. To promote active coordination between Member States on organ donation and transplantation e.g. establishing guidelines for quality and safety standards; sharing experiences and best practice; promoting European registers on transplantation; identifying the main problems at EU-level when it comes to organ exchanges; and reviewing the legal framework on organ trafficking.
  3. To carry out active coordination between Member States in which they would work together on the actions outlined in Point 2 above, while the Commission would study how EU legislation could complement and reinforce these actions. A directive on organs could set quality and safety requirements for their donation, procurement, testing, preservation, transport and distribution, along with legislative proposals against organ trafficking.

The consultation document sets out a number of questions for stakeholders and the public to help ascertain which of the options outlined would be the most appropriate, or whether there is an alternative approach. The consultation paper can be accessed online at:

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_threats/human_substance/organs_en.htm


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