On Saturday 12 October, the European Organ Donation and Transplant Day is celebrated. This is a commemoration promoted by the Council of Europe that aims to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation as a way to save and improve lives, since anyone at any time may need the donation of an organ to save his life or that of a loved one.
If you live in Finland, you should know that over 500 people are waiting for a donation. There are some who are lucky: according to data from the Helsinki University Hospital (HUS, for its Finnish acronym), 393 transplants were carried out in Finland in 2018 (238 kidneys, 66 livers, 47 hearts, 18 lungs, 23 pancreas and 1 facial tissue). And so far in 2019 (until 30 September) other 340 transplants have been made.
The harsh reality is that there is a continuous shortage of transplant organs. Every year, 5 to 10% of those waiting for a transplant die because a suitable organ wasn't received in time. For this reason, authorities decided a few years ago that in Finland everyone is a potential organ donor unless they have separately opted out.
However, efforts are made to find out the wishes of the donor where possible.
Organ donation testament
The Finnish Social Security Institution (Kela) explained that people may let the authorities know about their will to donate their organs by carrying an organ donor card kept in the wallet, the Organ Donor Card mobile app, or by information saved in My Kanta Pages (the digital service for health care users), where you can login for example with electronic banking credentials, mobile certificate or an electronic ID card.
To hold an organ donation testament means that you wish to donate organs and tissue after death to be used in organ transplantation for the treatment of another person.
Once you have recorded the information, it will be saved in the Patient Data Repository, where it can be checked by healthcare professionals and units via the patient information system. You can also print a copy of a valid donation card to carry with you. That is probably the best way to ensure your personal wishes are carried out.
In addition to that, authorities recommend to inform family members and relatives that you have expressed your willingness to donate. However, a relative may not prohibit organ donation on his own grounds.
Who can donate organs?
Finnish law estates that a person is dead when his brain activity has ceased. For this reason, "only a braindead person can be an organ donor", explains Tampere University Hospital (TAYS). The cause of a brain death is usually an intracranial bleed or brain injury.
Two independent physicians must confirm the brain death.Then, a neurosurgeon or neurologist confirms that neurological activity has ceased, and an intensive care unit physician confirms that the breathing activity has ceased. "The cause of the ceasing of brain activity needs to be known, and the brains need to be scanned with a MRI or CT before a person can be declared braindead," the hospital remarks.
Contraindications to organ donation are:
- When the cause or mechanism of brain death is unclear
- Over 85 years of age
- Positive hepatitis B or C, HIV
- Within last five years illness with the cancer, except for basal cell cancer of skin or brain tumor.
Who decides on organ donation?
Organ donation activities are regulated by the Act on the Medical Use of Human Organs, Tissues and Cells. As explained above, in Finland in principle all inhabitants are potential donors, so if the deceased person has presumably not objected to the procedure during his lifetime, his organs and tissues may be harvested.
A family member may decide on the organ donation of the underage deceased and of those who could not form an opinion on the issue during their life, for example due to a disease, mental disorder or other reason.
The physician must determine whether the will of the deceased person is known before organ harvesting can be performed.
The European Organ Donation Week is celebrated on 7-12 October 2019. Saturday 12 October is the European Organ Donation Day. During the Organ Donation Week there are local events throughout the country, and familiar goodwill ambassadors will be promoting the importance of expressing your wishes about organ donation, informed Kela.