Spain will be leading the EU for the next six months, and intends to use its experience in medical transplants to help EU member states find more organ donors and advance the techniques. How are they going about it?
Spain is very much the world leader for organ transplants with over 4000 successful operations last year, but the numbers have not always been so good. In 1989 there were only 550 donors. Last year there were over 1600.
The main reasons for this success are high public awareness of the need for organs, but above all the creation in every Spanish hospital of the job of Co-ordinator of Transplant Donations. The founder and director of the National Transplantation Organisation Dr Rafael Matesanz explains;
“It deals with doctor’s training from A to Z, personal intensive care, and goes all along the different steps of the donation chain, from identifying the donor, talking to their family to, if all goes well, the transfer and actual organ transplant.”
Spain is keen to share its know-how with its European partners, and the upcoming EU directive on organ transplants is studying Spanish practice attentively, says Spain’s Health Minister Trinidad Jiménez;
“We want the 27 countries of the European Union to have the same quality and security conditions as Spanish citizens. At the same time, we want the donation rate allowing people access to transplants to be similar to ours.”
Spain is far ahead of the US, which ironically pioneered transplant surgery, and in 2008 had a record number of donors: 34.2 per million inhabitants. Portugal and Italy are also seeing their figures climb after adopting the Spanish model.
Madrid is also studying setting up a transplant traceability system, and a cross-border inter-hospital organ exchange, like the one already used by the Eurotransplant Foundation.
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