Too few, says Günter Kirste, medical board of the German Trust for Organ Transplantation. MEDICA.de talks to the professor about organ shortages and possible alternatives.
MEDICA.de: Mr. Kirste, do you own an organ donor card?
Günter Kirste: Yes, I do.
MEDICA.de: Only 12 per cent of the Germans own an organ donor card, but 80 per cent are willing to donate their organs. How do you explain this difference?
Kirste: According to a new survey at least 16 per cent carry an organ donor card. But that is still not enough. In my opinion, the difference arises from the fact that many people have problems with writing down such a decision. But you always have to think about the fact that the card is not the only way to manifest your will to donate an organ.
MEDICA.de: What are the other options?
Kirste: The first possibility is to fill in an organ donor card, the second is to tell the own wish to friends, acquaintances or family members and the third is that the family members have to make a decision in the case of need. So, not all donated organs are the result of organ donor cards.
MEDICA.de: In other countries law regulates that everybody has to sign a declaration if they do not want to donate their organs after death, the disagreement rule. Should we not change German law according to this and abolish the existing acceptance solution?
Kirste: The German ethic council supports this option, but in my opinion this method is tricky, too because also in this case the relatives have to be consulted first.
MEDICA.de: Which role do doctors play when it comes down to a lack of organs?
Kirste: A very big and underestimated role. The willingness by hospitals to report potential organ donors is insufficient. That is because the hospitals are drowning in work and the effort as well as the costs are conceived as being excessive.
MEDICA.de: Would matters improve if hospitals appointed a commissioner for organ transplants?
Kirste: That is indeed a possible solution. However, the working conditions would have to be adapted in order to allow for an nationwide assignment of these commissioners.
MEDICA.de: Can you please elaborate?
Kirste: Those assigned to the posts of organ transplant commissioners would have to be released of other duties. However, there are no funds available – which I think is a crying shame. You have to realise that compared to other EU member states, Germany ranks among those countries with the lowest total number of organ transplant commissioners.
MEDICA.de: Do you think there are viable alternatives to donor organs?
Kirste: No, there is no viable alternative. A lot of work has been put into developing one but nothing can yet replace a real human organ. Consider, for example, the so called xenotransplantation, which means replacing a human organ with one of an animal. A lot of questions remain unanswered such as difficulties with infections and the transmission of animal viruses on humans represent such high risk factors that this method cannot be viewed as an alternative to human organs. Artificial organs are - according to current research - no lasting alternative, either.
The Interview was conducted by Kathrin Burghof.