Health Ministry Pushing for Major Changes to Organ Donation and Surrogacy Laws

Health Minister Yael German is seeking to amend current laws to make organ donation the default for Israelis renewing their drivers' licenses, and to enable same-sex couples and singles to have children through surrogate births.

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Every Israeli with a driver's license would automatically be added to the country's organ donor list unless they explicitly refuse, under a legislative change being promoted by Health Minister Yael German and the National Transplant Center.

The legal clause would be added to Israel's 2008 Organ Donation Law and would stipulate that any Israeli who renews their driver's license would automatically be added to a database of organ-donor card holders.

The Health Ministry's legal department is still formulating the process for refusing to donate organs. A person may be required to telephone the ministry or send a letter by mail indicating their desire to cancel their organ donor card. If they fail to do so, they will automatically receive the so-called ADI card when they renew their license, if the legislative change is approved.

The organ donations would proceed even without the family's consent, unless the family signs a declaration explicitly refusing to donate the deceased's organs. Currently medical staff must have signed consent from the family in order to harvest organs from the deceased.

The legislative change is meant to shorten the long waiting list for organ transplants, according to Prof. Rafael Beyar, chairman of the National Center for Transplants and CEO of Haifa's Rambam Medical Center. In recent years Israel has suffered from a worsening shortage of organ donors. Only about half of eligible families currently give their consent.

Similar laws exist in many other countries where the rate of family consent is low. Among them are Colombia, Belgium, Spain, France, Portugal and Sweden.

Surrogacy for gay couples and singles

German (Yesh Atid) is also pushing for legislative changes to surrogacy laws for same-sex couples and singles. Under German's proposal, same-sex couples and singles would have the same rights and regulations as do married 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.

Currently, gay couples and single women must travel abroad to countries such as the United States and India in order to undergo surrogacy treatments. This process often costs tens of thousands of dollars.

German's proposal, which would require a change in legislation, is likely to draw opposition from the Haredi parties in the Knesset as well as members of the government coalition, among them members of the Habayit Hayehudi party.

"I am also promoting civil unions," German added. "I am aware that there is opposition and I will work in the appropriate frameworks for promoting this process."

A vote on legalizing same-sex civil unions was initially scheduled for Sunday, but Justice Minister Tzipi Livni indefinitely postponed the vote in order to formulate a consensus draft of the law.

Jonathan Lis contributed to this report. 

Doctors at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot are fighting to save the life of a seven-month-old suffering from a rare case of botulinum toxin poisoning. (Illustrative photo)Credit: Getty Images
MK Yael German.Credit: Michal Fattal

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