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Tuesday 16th July 2019

Spain's organ donor success

16th January 2008

The Spanish system of organ donation has attracted worldwide attention for its success and considerate approach.

heart surgery

Spain has triple the UK rate of organ donors. It has 35 organ donors in every million, whereas the UK has 12.9 per million.

Doctors in Spain perform their roles as part of a national network of physicians who receive training in how to spot organ donors. They also receive training in how to approach relatives and talk to them about donation.

Surgeons work with the teams in intensive care to decide which patients may be facing death. If a patient has been termed "brain dead" doctors will then talk to families to ask them about the possibility of organ donation.

Although Spain runs a system which "presumes consent", doctors will routinely speak to families in order to confirm that they have given the go-ahead for donation.

This is usually a very successful process. For example, in San Carlos hospital in Madrid only 3% of relatives refused to give consent to organ donation.

Dr Rafael Matesanz said that transplant co-ordinators have made a significant difference in decreasing the numbers of relatives who refuse to give consent.

"During the early 1990s we had a 30% refusal rate, at the moment it's about 15%," Dr Matesanz said.

Dr Matesanz added that the Spanish process could work well in other countries. He gave the example of how, in 2005, 45 British citizens died in Spain. All 45 families gave their consent to organ donation after being consulted by doctors.

He confirmed: "So while the family refusal rate in the UK is 40%, for British people in Spain it is zero."

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