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Organ donation and transplantation: Facts, figures and European Union action [Policy Podcast]

Written by Nicole Scholz,

© Csaba Deli / Shutterstock.com

The issue of organ donation and transplantation gained renewed political momentum as one of the initial health priorities of the current Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

There are two types of organ donation: deceased donation and living donation. Organ transplantation has become an established worldwide practice, and is seen as one of the greatest medical advances of the 20th century. Demand for organ transplantation is increasing, but a shortage of donors has resulted in high numbers of patients on waiting lists.

Medical, legal, religious, cultural, and ethical considerations apply to organ donation and transplantation. In the EU, transplants must be carried out in a manner that shows respect for fundamental rights and for the human body, in conformity with the Council of Europe’s binding laws, and compliant with relevant EU rules. World Health Organization principles also apply.

Organ donation rates across the EU vary widely. Member States have different systems in place to seek people’s consent to donate their organs after death. In the ‘opt-in’ system, consent has to be given explicitly, while in the ‘opt-out’ system, silence is tantamount to consent. Some countries have donor and/or non-donor registries.

Responsibility for framing health policies and organising and delivering care lies primarily with the EU Member States. The EU has nevertheless addressed organ donation and transplantation through legislation, an action plan and co-funded projects, and the European Parliament has adopted own-initiative resolutions on aspects of organ donation and transplantation.

Stakeholders have submitted a joint statement on a shared vision for improving organ donation and transplantation in the EU. An evaluation of the EU’s action plan identified the need for a new, improved approach. Innovative products and procedures, such as artificially grown organs and 3D bio-printing, might lend themselves as future possibilities to reduce our reliance on organ donors.

Actual deceased organ donors 2018 (annual rate per million population)

Actual deceased organ donors 2018 (annual rate per million population)


Read the complete Briefing on ‘Organ donation and transplantation: Facts, figures and European Union action‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘Organ donation and transplantation: Facts, figures and European Union action’ on YouTube.

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