Deaths Up 34% Among Those Awaiting Transplants

According to a report released by the Health Ministry's National Transplant Center, in 2010 there was a decline in the number of transplants made possible by deceased organ donors.

The situation of those awaiting organ transplants in Israel is worsening, according to an annual summary newly released by the Health Ministry's National Transplant Center.

According to the report, in 2010 there was a decline in the number of transplants made possible by deceased organ donors. There was also no increase in the number of families who consented to donate the organs of clinically deceased relatives - the consent rate in these cases remains 50 percent. The number of persons who died while awaiting organ transplants climbed 34 percent last year. In 2010, 124 such persons died - 39 while awaiting kidney donations; 37 while awaiting liver transplants, 31 awaiting lung transplants; and 11 awaiting heart transplants.

One bright spot was a rise last year in the number of Israelis who signed a consent card authorizing the use of organs in case of death. In 2010, 561,071 Israelis signed such authorizations, three times the numbers of such signatures at the start of the decade. In 2010, 228 organ transplant procedures were undertaken in Israel, constituting a decrease of 19 percent from the 2009 figure of 282. In 2010, 65 kidney transplants were conducted that used organs donated by deceased persons; this constituted a 30 percent drop from the preceding year's figure. In 2010, 39 liver transplants based on donations from deceased persons were reported - this was a 28 percent drop from the 2009 figure. There were 11 heart transplants last year, a decrease of 35 percent from 2009. In 2010, there was a 13 percent increase in kidney transplants from living donors. Sixty-nine such procedures in 2009 rose to a record number of 78 such transplants last year. The increase can be attributed to the conferral of thousands of shekels of compensation to living kidney donors, under a program initiated in 2010 by the transplant center.

Last year ended with the widely publicized organ transplant refusal of the family of soccer star Avi Cohen. In 2010, 60 families of the clinically deceased consented to organ transplants, and 62 refused.

The transplant center steering committee has authorized a plan whose details were revealed last month in Haaretz. It aims to increase the number of organ transplants in Israel.

The committee has authorized the creation of a new kidney donation process for the benefit of those awaiting a kidney. It is based on a model developed in the Netherlands, and the process will be headed by Dr. Alexander Yusim of the Rabin Medical Center, who is president of the Israel Transplant Society. It is to be implemented within three months. In addition, the steering committee approved for implementation this year a pilot program on the organs of those whose heart has stopped beating (such as victims of road accidents ). In these cases, heart beats will be continued artificially, by connecting the person to special instruments. The procedure has been introduced to Israel by Prof. Francis Delmonico, of Harvard University, who is responsible for transplant procedures at the World Health Organization. The model was developed in Catalonia, Spain, where organs were preserved in cases of road accident fatality by moving the victims to a hospital, where the suitability of organ use was assessed. According to Prof. Rafael Beyar, director of the Rambam Medical Center, who also served as chairman of the National Transplant Center, "this procedure can allow for an increase of dozens of organ transplants."

In May 2008, the Knesset passed a transplant law designating, for the first time, criminal punishments for the sale of organs, and restricting the stream of Israelis going overseas for transplant procedures with the financial support of local health maintenance organizations.

Amos Kanaf, chairman of the National Kidney Transplants and Dialysis Association, says that "when the law was passed, we warned about an anticipated organ shortage in Israel. It is wrong that at a time when there is increased awareness about cancer and diabetes, we are moving backward in the area of organ transplant. The [new report's] findings attest to a failed policy devised by those who are responsible for attending to the issue at the National Transplant Center. There has been no change in the way the [transplant] issue has been handled over the past decade. We oppose the sale of organs; but kidney disease patients cannot understand why the state of Israel prefers dialysis to kidney transplant. The current situation cannot continue."