Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 15:13 UK

MEPs back Europe organ donor card

British donor card
Some EU countries presume a donor's consent, others require an opt in

Euro MPs have called for an EU-wide organ donor card to tackle the shortage of organs for transplant.

An estimated 40,000 people across Europe are waiting for a transplant and mortality rates while waiting for a heart, liver or lung are up to 30%.

MEPs voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday for the creation of a card and hotline that would operate across Europe.

British Liberal Democrat MEP Liz Lynne says the proposals "could significantly speed up... finding the right donor".

Because not all EU member states use a donor card system, she also believes it could improve the system.

"If we rolled it out across the EU, you would get more donors."

Ms Lynne also suggests the card could have a detrimental effect on the trade in illegally trafficked organs and on "transplant tourism" because there would be a legitimate way of improving access to donated organs.

European donor card
Transplant hotline with single telephone number
Ensuring all donation is voluntary and altruistic
No payment between recipient and donor

The EU report says organ donations should be strictly non-commercial, to reduce the risks of organ trafficking.

British Labour MEP Glenis Willmott said the trade in organs had become a European problem.

"We should not view organ trafficking as a distant crime. Several poorer European nations have also become embroiled in the transplant trade," she said.

Presumed consent

EU countries have adopted a patchwork of organ donation systems.

Some countries such as the UK require donors to "opt in", others such as Belgium and Denmark "presume consent" and those who object can opt out.

England's chief medical officer has asked advisers to consider an opt-out system because of the chronic shortage of organs.

In Spain, the rate of donations has risen substantially partly because it presumes the consent of the donor but particularly because every hospital has a team of transplant co-ordinators.

Donation of organs by patients who are still alive has led to fears of an increase in organ trafficking and the EU report calls on member states to maintain strict legal provisions.

In the UK, a change in the law has enabled families seeking a transplant to join a register for "kidney-swaps" with people they have never met.

Previously, living donors could only give kidneys to a genetically or emotionally-related recipient.

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