Organ Donation — Be a Gamechanger!

Nobody knows when they will die, nor whether they or their loved ones may suddenly have to rely on a donor organ in order to survive. Saturday, September 9, was National Organ and Tissue Donation Day in Switzerland; however, Swisstransplant (the organization that has oversight over all organ donations and transplantations) has extended the national day to the whole month, with a campaign under the motto “Be a Gamechanger.” The aim is to get the public thinking and talking about organ donation and how they can register their wishes.

Compared to other European countries, the organ donation rate in Switzerland is rather low at 19 donors per 1 million inhabitants. Within Switzerland, organ donation rates differ significantly between regions, with higher donation rates recorded in French-speaking Switzerland and Ticino than in German-speaking Switzerland. Last year, around 570 people in Switzerland received organ donations. In Basel, 34 organs were donated by nine people to 34 recipients in 2022. However, almost 1,450 Swiss people are still waiting for a life-saving donor organ.

To date, the rule in Switzerland is that organs can only be removed after death if the person has consented to be an organ donor (eg, by filling out an organ donor card). If no written consent is available, the person’s next of kin will be asked if they know the deceased’s preference, and they have to consent. In May 2022, Swiss voters decided in a referendum to change this, so that everybody is assumed to consent to organ donation unless they explicitly state that they do not consent. However, the new rule probably won’t go into effect until 2025; additionally, next of kin will still be consulted if the deceased has not explicitly stated their wishes and can still refuse the consent to an organ donation if the family is not aware of their preferences. Therefore, it is still important that every person make their wishes regarding organ donation known—best by filling out an organ donation card with the information whether you do or do not consent to organ removal and sharing this information and your wishes with your loved ones.

The decision to donate organs is a very personal one. While 91% of the population generally has a positive attitude towards donating their own organs, 55% of relatives reject donation in an emergency—usually in a difficult, emotional, and stressful situation. That’s why it helps if relatives are informed about the wishes of their loved ones. By making your decision about organ donation clear, you create security that your choices will be respected and you relieve your relatives and the specialist staff in an emotionally difficult moment.

Whether you do or do not consent is entirely up to you. What matters is that you deal with the question and talk to your loved ones about your decision. In addition, you can put your choice (Yes or No) in writing, in a living will, electronic patient dossier (EPD), or using an organ donation card.

Click on the following link to print an English-language brochure published by the Swiss Federal Department of Health that clearly explains organ donation and includes an organ donation card to fill out (Yes or No). Remember, it is best to make your wishes clear to loved ones and carry your card with you at all times.