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Why is Spain so good at organ donations?

Why is Spain so good at organ donations?

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Spain’s organ transplant system is considered the gold standard across the world. But how have they done it?

Writing in the American Journal of Transplantation, the country’s leading experts have revealed there is no great secret – it has simply invested a lot of time and effort on the issue.

In 1989 they set up the Organizacion Nacional de Trasplantes (ONT), an agency whose sole priority is transplantation. And it worked. In less than a decade they’d doubled the rate of organ donation to 30 deceased donors per million people. It’s now up to 40, the best in Europe.

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Considering patients for organ donation earlier on is part of Spain's successful transplant policy (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Designated health professionals are helped by regional co-ordination offices and the ONT to make organ donations happen, and find donors not just in intensive care units, but also in accident and emergency departments and hospital wards.

They also consider organ donations from older people (10% of donors are over 80) – another policy that helped the country reach 100 transplant procedures per million people in 2015.

The Spanish model, as it's been dubbed, is so successful that other nations are trying to recreate it.

Unlike most of the UK, Spain has an opt-out donation system, but their success is more a result of their honed co-ordination of transplants. France recently changed its organ donation policy to this system, which Wales also adopted in 2015.

Beatriz Domínguez-Gil of the ONT, who co-authored the article, said: “The most important success is that the system has made organ donation be routinely considered when a patient dies, regardless of the circumstances of death.”

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