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All Icelanders Are Now Organ Donors

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All Icelanders Are Now Organ Donors

Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

As of next year, all Icelanders will be assumed organ donors unless they explicitly state otherwise. The Icelandic parliament approved a new law yesterday which assumes all individuals consent to organ donation upon their death, Vísir reports. The new regulations take effect on January 1, 2019.

Prior to the law, Icelanders had to explicitly state their will to be an organ donor upon their death, and just over 10 percent had done so. Statistics from around the world indicate that countries where consent to organ donation is assumed by law have higher rates of organ donation that those where refusal is assumed. Runólfur Pálsson, supervisor of the organ transplant team at the National University Hospital of Iceland, called the new law a “milestone.”

While the law effectively makes all Icelanders organ donors, individuals can opt out if they so choose. The law also contains a clause which states that such a procedure cannot go forward if the closest relative of the deceased opposes it. This clause applies whether the deceased had explicitly professed consent or consent was merely assumed by law.

Progressive Party MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir headed the bill, which was drafted in consultation with the organ donation team of Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden. In the process it was learned that there has been only one case in Sweden where family members decided to go against the will of the deceased. “In general it is a great relief for family members to know the will of the deceased and they nearly always respect their position,” Silja Dögg stated.

The new law stipulates that the Ministry of Welfare is responsible for informing Icelanders of the new regulations before they come into effect next year. Individuals who would like to opt out of organ donation will be required to submit a form to the Directorate of Health.

“I want to reiterate to people to discuss their position at the kitchen table at home,” stated Silja Dögg. “This can prevent people from finding themselves in a difficult situation in case of accident or illness of a relative.”

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