These winter celebrations the gifts will once again have, as every year, a leading role, especially among the little ones. Behind the Christmas and Three Kings gifts there will be shared generosity and enthusiasm, feelings that will complement the emotions that flood these dates. Undoubtedly, these moments of exchange of presents have great importance in our culture, but they are not the most accurate reflection of the true solidarity and generosity of citizens. Why? Because, throughout the year, thousands of Spaniards give one of the greatest gifts that can be given in this world, without even knowing in most cases who will receive it: the gift of life, the opportunity to other people can continue to live thanks to organ donation.
We have many reasons to be proud. Spain has been a world leader in organ donation and transplantation for three decades. This health achievement would not be possible without the sum of several factors, including the solidarity of the Spanish population, trust and pride in the transplant system and a law that favors tissue and organ donation. Although a large part of the Spanish population is unaware of it, Spain has very peculiar legislation in this regard: unlike many other countries, in our country we are all donors, unless someone is alive. declare otherwise. This is how the Law 30/1979, of October 27, on the extraction and transplantation of organs:
“2. The extraction of organs or other anatomical pieces from the deceased may be carried out for therapeutic or scientific purposes, in the event that they have not expressly stated their opposition.
3. Presumably healthy people who die in an accident or as a subsequent consequence of it will also be considered as donors, if there is no express opposition from the deceased “.
This is what is called presumed consent. That is, in Spain we are all donors by default because it is assumed that we have given our consent. Thus, the only way to cancel this consent is to express in life that you do not want to be a donor. Although the law is clear in this regard, daily practice is different, as the National Transplant Organization (ONT) clarifies: “According to the Transplant Law, in Spain we are all considered donors if we have not expressed otherwise in life. However, this expression may have been formulated in different ways, which forces family members or relatives to be asked about the will of the deceased regarding the donation. In practice, the family’s decision is always respected, since it is assumed that These would not contradict the wishes of your loved one. The family’s signature to proceed with the donation is what we call family consent. ”
If we are all donors by law and if health workers ask the family to finally decide whether to donate organs, what is the point of “Become a donor” campaigns then? What these initiatives mainly seek is, on the one hand, to make the population aware of the importance of organ donation for the lives of many people and, on the other, to give a little push so that people openly declare themselves as donors and even if the closest family and friends are aware of this position.
In any case, regardless of the law and what the potentially donor deceased person expressed in life, in the end the will of the family or those closest to them is always respected. Otherwise, a tense, unpleasant and undesirable situation would be created in the relationship between the health workers and the donor’s relatives, and trust in the transplant system could suffer over time. What it is about is to give a supportive environment to the issue of organ donation, not imposition. The latter would undoubtedly result in a more negative perception of this process and many people in life would reject being a donor after their death.
At a recent event, organized in Zaragoza by the ONT, the transplant coordinators pointed out how important it was for people to express their wishes to be donors during life to their most loved ones (whether they were relatives, partners or friends). Although it is not the most frequent, doctors sometimes find families who do not accept organ donation in those difficult moments after the death of a loved one, either because they did not know their wishes in this regard or because this went against the position of the family or the deceased person. The health workers listen and dialogue with the families with patience and empathy to try to convince them to see the removal of organs favorably, but in the end everything depends on their will.
Although Spain is one of the places in the world where patients on transplant waiting lists are more likely to get the desired organ, between 10 and 15% of them die while waiting to receive it. Each family or friend who rejects the organ donation of a deceased loved one presents one or more fewer opportunities for other people to continue living.
Thus, on these dates when gifts are very present, declaring our conviction to be organ donors to our loved ones could be, at some point, the best gift we could ever give. There are plenty of reasons to do so. For a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) his reasons were clear: “I reaffirm my decision to donate my organs as we have mentioned. I am pleased to know that with this I will be able to ‘give life’ to other people. It will be a way of revenge. of this damn disease that is killing me. Giving life to others. ”