Organ Donation & Transplantation

Council conclusions on organ donation and transplantation were adopted last week by the Health Ministers of the 27 EU countries together with EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg.

Gathering in Brussels for the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, the Health Ministers recognised the considerable efforts already made by the Commission and the Member States, in particular through collaboration and sharing of expertise. They also recommended that we step up our joint efforts on specific areas such as communication strategies and organ exchange agreements.

Organ transplantation saves lives and drastically improves the quality of life for patients. 30 300 organs were transplanted in the EU in 2011. Thanks to joint efforts at hospital, local, national and European level, transplant numbers increase every year. However patients still die on waiting lists. Latest records (from 31 December 2011) show that more than 61 000 patients in the EU are on a waiting list for an organ.

The Cyprus Presidency of the European Union set organ donation & transplantation as a priority, reiterating support for the Commission's "Action Plan on Organ Donation and Transplantation (2009-2015): Strengthened Cooperation between Member States", which is now half-way.

The Action Plan is a voluntary tool complementary to the mandatory requirements laid down in Directive 2010/53/EU on standards of quality and safety of human organs intended for transplantation, which was adopted in July 2010.

The Action Plan addresses three main challenges:

  1. To increase organ availability;
  2. To enhance the efficiency and accessibility of transplant systems;
  3. To improve quality and safety.

Ten key "priority actions" to be taken by all EU countries were identified to meet these challenges. Actions include the introducing transplant donor coordinators to identify and prepare for deceased donation, setting up safety measures for living donors and increasing public awareness. Project funding from the EU Health Programme helps Member States implement these actions.