The Dutch Senate recently voted – albeit with a small majority (38 votes in favor, 36 against) – in favor of a bill drafted by MP Pia Dijkstra establishing an opt-out system for organ donation from deceased people, similar to what is already in place in Spain and Belgium. Adopted by the House of Representatives about a year and a half ago, the law will enter into force in July 2020.
The new law automatically registers people as organ donors unless they disagree and make this known to the authorities. While this measure is of course warmly welcomed by the Dutch Kidney Foundation whose Director Tom Oostrom, called the vote “a real breakthrough for patients on waiting lists”, it is severely criticized by its detractors claiming the law goes too far, by presuming people are donors without them having expressly given their permission.
In practice, as explained by MP Pia Dijkstra, every person over 18 who is not yet registered as a donor will now receive a letter asking if they want to donate their organs after death. People “will be able to reply: yes, no, my next of kin will decide or a specific person will decide,” said Ms Dijkstra in a statement. People who do not respond to the first letter, or to a second letter six weeks later, will be considered organ donors. However, people can change their status at any time.
With such a system in place, it is likely that Netherlands sees an increase in registrations of organ donors, as shown in other countries with similar systems. However, to ensure favourable response by people to the new system, an important communication and awareness raising campaign needs to be made to inform people about organ donation.
The bill will now be signed by Dutch King Willem-Alexander and a minister at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.