The Netherlands has added a new law which makes all the adults an organ donor by default. Every adult citizen will be considered as a potential organ donor until they specifically choose to opt out.
Every person over 18 years will receive a letter giving them an option of yes, no, my next kin will decide or someone specific will decide. They will receive another letter in the span of next six weeks. Failure in responding to any of these letters will result in that person being considered as an organ donor. They will have the freedom to amend their status at anytime.
The bill was already approved by the Netherlands’ upper House of Representatives in September 2016. The drafter of the legislation, Pia Dijkstra, said she made a number of changes in a bid to ease its passage through the lower house. As part of the changes, authorities must consult with the deceased’s relatives. The family will also have the final say over whether the procedure goes ahead, according to Dijkstra.
“The law is also meant to put less pressure on family members to decide the fate of their loved one’s organs. When no registration about the donatee is available, the bereaved have to decide on donation of the organs. That is very difficult for them. They are emotionally shaken by the sudden death of their family member.” Jeantine Reiger, communications manager for the Dutch Transplant Foundation said.
According to Reiger, there are about 1,100 people waiting for organ donation in the Netherlands. During a Donor Week event in October 2016, a month after that vote, 26,430 adults registered as non-donors, but only 5,414 people registered as donors, according to the Ministry of Public Health.
Organ donor shortages have long been a problem in the Netherlands. According to Dutch public broadcaster NOS, around 57 people died waiting for a new organ during the first half of 2016
Similar laws are in place in Belgium and Spain, where the policy is referred to as “presumed consent.” The law is expected to be implemented in 2020 after approval from King Willem-Alexander. Until then the old law is valid. This says one will become a donor if one has explicitly expressed a wish to that effect.