Information about the hospital system and about getting medical treatment in Germany.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Is it possible to have major transplant surgery as an international patient in Germany?

It is not the most frequent type of medical problem which international patients look to get treated in Germany - but kidney transplants, lung transplants, liver transplants etc. are definitely among the desired treatments, which patient referral organisations like German Hospital Service Ltd., encounter among their patient requests.
And why not? A number of highly qualified transplant centers, usually in the big university clinics, perform these high-tech operations regularly and have a lot of experience. So why should international patients, who perhaps do not have these facilities in their countries, not profit from this expertise.
Right! They should, and in principle they can. With one big BUT: They need to bring their own live donor, if they need a live transplant. Why?
In Germany, like in most countries in the world, the demand for organs greatly exeeds the avilable donations. And although a europe-wide organisation, EuroTransplant, tries to coordinate the exchange by maintaining a huge data base of patients who are waiting for an organ and comparing the medical parameters of every organ that can be secured from accident victims etc., in many cases the wait on the list can be too long, and patients will not survive long enough for a suitable organ to be found.
Due to this grave shortage, it has been decided, that only patients who are residents of the EuroTransplant countries, can be eligible for the waiting list.
This means, that an international patient can only be considered for transplant surgery, if he has a relative or close friend who is willing to donate, for example, one of his kidneys to him. And in Germany, like in most other European countries, the donation of organs for financial considerations is considerd unethical and illegal. Every single case of voluntary donation is closely examined by an ethics committee before the permission for the transplant operation is granted.
So: While is may not be major problem in some countries to "buy an organ", it will not be possible to bring such a donor to a German hospital and have get the desired surgery.
Only if the donor is really a member of the family, and if it can be shown that the donor acts of his own free will and not under any pressure, the ethics committee will allow the doctors to begin the treatment.

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