BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers on Thursday decided against tackling a shortage of donor organs with a reform that would have made most people potential donors unless they objected.
After a debate that cut across party lines, parliament voted 379-292 against the proposal.
At present, doctors in Germany can transplant organs only from people who actively declare their willingness, for example by carrying a donor card or making a living will. More than 1,000 people in the country of 83 million die each year while waiting for transplants.
Under a new system proposed by Health Minister Jens Spahn and others, people would automatically have been considered as donors unless they opted out by putting themselves on a register saying they objected — which they could do at any time.
Relatives could also tell officials that the deceased made clear they didn’t want to donate.
Spahn argued that 22 out of 28 European Union countries have similar systems in which “organ donation is not the exception but the rule.” He has said previously that everything officials have tried so far hasn’t led to a rise in donor figures.
Another cross-party group of lawmakers said that the proposal raised legal and ethical concerns over people’s right to determine their own destiny. It is calling for people to be asked about their intentions when they pick up identity cards, which are obligatory in Germany and have to be renewed every 10 years.
The group said it wants to ensure that organ donation remains “a conscious and voluntary decision that cannot be forced by the state.” A vote on that proposal was underway.
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