The Ministerial Committee for Legislation Sunday rejected a bill aimed at changing the model of organ donation in Israel from an opt-in system to an opt-out one.
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The bill, would have made organ donation the default state after death. Anyone not wishing to be a donor would have to actively opt out of being an organ donor. Supporters of the bill said it would greatly increase the number of organs available for transplant in Israel and save lives.
But in its weekly meeting on Sunday, the ministerial rejected the bill in the form presented, saying it would wait for a government proposal on the issue.
The bill was sponsored by MKs from different sides of the political spectrum, including MK Merav Michaeli (Labor), MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) and Coalition Leader MK Yariv Levin (Likud), in an attempt to persuade the coalition to support the measure.
The rate of organ donation in Israel is one of the lowest in the West, with only 13 percent of adult Israelis holding an organ donor card.
According to the Health Ministry, over 1,000 children and adults are currently awaiting an organ transplant. Of these, only 250 will undergo a transplant over the next year. Some 100 will die during the wait. Most of these could be saved by an organ transplant.
“We really want to save lives but also shy away from bureaucratic procedures,” said Michaeli. “Only a few of us take action to donate organs. The bill allows anyone who doesn’t want to donate his organs to say so at any time, but those who don’t have a problem with that will be able to save many lives. That is social solidarity.”
According to the new proposed model, every Israeli citizen and permanent resident will, upon reaching the age of 18 (and all citizens six months before the law goes into effect), receive a letter which will outline the law and inform them of their right to inform the government of their refusal to donate their organs using the prepaid envelope.
Any citizen will be able to opt out of becoming an organ donor at any time.
According to the bill, a first-degree relative will be able to prevent the harvesting of organs from his or her spouse, children and parents. If the deceased is a minor, the parents’ consent will be needed.
The proposed model already exists in most of Europe. A study conducted by the European Union found that implementing a similar model in Spain led to a substantial increase in the number of transplants, to 35 transplants per million people – the highest in Europe.