Most Luxembourg residents don't have organ donor cards
Last year was a 'good year' for organ donation in Luxembourg, according to the non-profit association Luxembourg Transplant.
Despite this assessment, however, 61% of Luxembourg residents still do not possess an organ donor card.
Every year, analysis of the figures yield the same results: Few Luxembourg residents accept donating their organs after death.
But in 2017, a positive trend emerged. Nearly eight of 10 residents would be willing to donate their organs, according to a study commissioned by Luxembourg Transplant.
The lives of 32 patients in the Grand Duchy were saved last year thanks to nine people who agreed to donate after death.
Health Minister Lydia Mutsch spoke of a "significant improvement" in the situation.
Passport for life
In practice, however, organ donation is not so simple. In the event of the loss of a loved one, many people do not know how to respond to a doctor's request for organ donation.
In theory, it can help the process if the deceased possesses the little purple Passeport de vie, or Passport for Life donor card, however at present, 61% of Luxembourg residents don't carry one.
Since a law was passed in 1982, all Luxembourg residents are automatically supposed to be possible organ donors.
As the Luxembourg Transplant website explains: "According to the law, all residents of the Grand Duchy are potential donors of organs – that is to say, organs and tissues can be taken after the death of any person having their last legal domicile in Luxembourg and not having, during their lifetime, made known, in writing, a refusal for such a levy."
In practice, however, the situation is often quite different.
Most doctors do not follow the legislation and seek consent from the deceased's family, with the aim of obtaining information concerning their stance and beliefs on the subject when they were alive.
Death remains taboo subject
Today in Luxembourg, 43% of respondents do not take any position on organ donation.
Eighteen percent admit to having informed their loved ones of their wish to apply for a donor card, but have not yet done so.
For Claude Braun, president of the Luxembourg Transplant, "death remains a taboo subject" in Luxembourg.
He advises people to be more open on the subject and not hesitate to discuss death with those around them.
The Dossiers de soin partagé (DSP), or Shared Care Records initiative is now addressing this issue. Within patient data, to which all physicians have access, it should be noted in the future whether patients wish to donate organs.
Transplant coordinators also have access to this information, which should facilitate their decisions.
Although the DSP initiative is still in a testing phase, it will be used this year, Mutsch said.
Not everyone can donate
On average, 65 people in the Grand Duchy await organ transplants every year.
"We must keep in mind that not all organ transplants are feasible, and sometimes the deceased's state of health makes it impossible, even if they had agreed to donate organs," explained coordinator Jorge De Sousa.
The free Passeport de vie organ-donation card can be obtained from any pharmacy or doctor in Luxembourg, or it can be ordered via the Luxembourg Transplant website.
Another service offered is an app for smartphones. Personal details can be entered and a wish to donate, or not donate, organs selected.
Next-of-kin details and their phone numbers can be entered. This can then trigger an SMS, if desired, which is sent to them showing the sender's decision and requesting that they "respect your choice".
In the event of death, when the phone is opened, the app clearly shows the holder's organ donation choice, as well as a button to call the next-of-kin directly.