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EU plans to boost organ donor numbers

With region-wide card and 24/7 hotline

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The European Parliament is calling for a Europe-wide donor card in order to reduce the shortage of organs available for transplant.

The region-wide card would supplement existing national systems. There will also be a 24-hour telephone hotline, which sounds good, but it will need to be multi-lingual, and thus expensive, and it's hard to see under what circumstances someone will need donorship advice at 3am.

The report, which was adopted with 653 votes in favour, 14 against, and 16 abstentions, does identify a risk of organ trafficking and "transplant tourism", but stops short of quantifying that risk as "Europol claims that there are no documented cases".

Reports from the Council of Europe and the World Health Organisation apparently do show evidence of such business taking place, prompting the House to ask Europol to "improve monitoring of cases of organ trafficking and draw the necessary conclusion".

Of course, the best way to stop organ trafficking would be to have sufficient organs available, and the best way to achieve that (short of moving to an opt-out system) is to inform people of the process and get them to tell relatives their wishes.

In the UK, the NHS runs an organ donor registration site, and hands out balloons at hospitals to get people to sign up. Balloons and posters might seem trivial, but one can't help wondering if that's a more effective approach than debates in Brussels. ®

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