Organ Donation to be Mandatory in Israel?

Israel's Minister of Health Yael German (Photo: Flash90)
Israel’s Minister of Health Yael German (Photo: Flash90)

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the place with flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from the man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)

Thus the bible describes the first organ donation in history.  Organ donation is sometimes the only option left for people whose organs are damaged or failing.  Yet, since most organs can only be donated after the donor has died, and that organ must be in good condition, there is often a great discrepancy between those in need and the number of suitable organs available.

In Israel, ADI, Israel’s national transplant centre, has long worked to increase the number of registered donors.  It has offered incentives ranging from prestigious plaques affixed to tombstones of donors, recognising their life-saving generosity, to priority for registered donors and their family members on the national transplant list.  The latter caused a brief spike in the number of donor cards signed, but since it coincided with a welcome drop in the number of road deaths and fatal strokes — two main sources of organs suitable for donation — the number of transplants performed actually decreased.

Now, Health Minister Naomi German (Yesh Atid) is working with ADI to promote an amendment to the current transplant law, dated 2008; an amendment that would make organ donation an “opt-out” rather than “opt-in” program.  In other words, all drivers renewing their licenses would automatically be registered as organ donors, and if they did not want to donate they would have to notify the ministry.  How that would be done is still being considered.

Currently, consent is required from the family of the deceased in order to remove organs for donation.  Under the new law, the requirement for consent would also be removed.  Families wishing to prevent the donation would need to sign a declaration to that effect.

The aim of the amendment is to shorten the waiting list for donations.  Other countries that enacted similar laws due to low rates of family consent include Colombia, Belgium, Spain, France, Portugal and Sweden.

This is not the only legal change German is promoting.  She is also supporting changes in the laws governing surrogate parenting, particularly for same-sex couples.  Currently, such couples are forced to go abroad to undergo the costly process.  As an extension of her general support for civil unions, including same-sex unions, she would like to see these couples offered the same opportunities as heterosexual couples.

“Everyone has the right to parenthood and there should be no discrimination between a woman who wants to be a mother and a man who wants to be a father,” German told Haaretz.