An organ transplant can be life-saving and can significantly improve the recipient’s quality of life. Apart from the medical questions, numerous legal and ethical aspects need to be taken into account.
In deceased organ donation, it is essential to determine death in a reliable manner, to respect the wishes of the deceased person, and to support the relatives during this difficult time.
On 15 May 2022, the people approved the principle of presumed consent with regard to organ donation. The date of entry into force of the new regulation is not yet known.
A factsheet published by the SAMS offers ethical, medical and legal principles on transplantation medicine and on the presumed or explicit consent system. The factsheet is available in four languages on the webpage Deceased organ donation.
Medical-ethical guidelines for the determination of death
The SAMS guidelines «Determination of death with regard to organ transplantation and preparations for organ removal» (2017) provide technical instructions for the determination of death and the performance of preparatory medical measures. However, they also cover in detail many other aspects of deceased organ donation, such as the procedure for ascertaining the patient’s wishes, discussions with relatives, guidance for difficult decision situations, and management of the dying patient and the cadaver.
The removal of an organ from a living donor, i.e. living donation, represents a breach of personal and physical integrity and is only legally permissible with the donor’s explicit consent. Special importance attaches to the provision of comprehensive information to enable informed consent. In particular, it must be ensured that the donor’s decision is voluntary.
The SAMS guidelines «Living donation of solid organs» (2008; available in French | German) provide guidance for physicians and treatment teams involved in the medical and psychosocial assessment of donors and in their aftercare. In view of recent developments in the area of living organ donation, these guidelines are currently being revised.