Switzerland has voted to boost the availability of transplant organs by making everyone a potential donor after death unless they have expressly objected.
The legal change was approved by 60% of voters in a referendum. Under the existing laws, transplants are only possible if the deceased person consented while alive.
Their wishes are often unknown, and in such cases the decision is left up to relatives who in most cases opt against organ donation.
At the end of 2021, more than 1,400 patients were awaiting transplant organs in Switzerland, a country of about 8.6 million people.
Last year, 166 deceased persons donated their organs in Switzerland, and a total of 484 such organs were transplanted.
But 72 people died in 2021 while waiting on an organ transplant waiting list, according to the organisation Swisstransplant.
“The public have shown that they are ready to give a chance to the people who are on the waiting list,” said Swisstransplant’s director, Franz Immer.
In a bid to reduce the backlog, the government and parliament wanted to change the law to a “presumed consent” model, something already adopted in a number of other European countries.
According to that system, people who do not wish to become an organ donor after death must explicitly say so.
Those who have not made their wishes clear would be assumed to be in favour. However, relatives would still be able to refuse if they know or suspect that the person concerned would have chosen not to donate an organ. In cases where no relatives can be contacted, no organs may be removed.
The rules would only apply to people aged 16 and over.
The medical conditions for donation remain the same: only people who die in a hospital intensive care unit can donate their organs, and two doctors must confirm the death.
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