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Spain is the world leader in organ donations

Tue 12th Jan 2010

Spain's Health Minister, Trinidad Jiminez, yesterday announced how the country led the world in organ donations last year - for the 18th consecutive year despite a significant decline of deaths on the road which has traditionally been a key source of donated organs. "These results have enormous merit. Our numbers allow us to lead the world for 18 consecutive years" She stated.

4,028 organ transplant operations were performed in Spain during 2009 from a total of 1,605 donors, a new record for the country, she told a news conference.

The number of deceased donors per million people was 34.3 for last year, nearly twice the rate recorded for the rest of the EU 18.1, whilst in the USA it stands at 26.3.

Spain has become a world leader in organ donation after the creation of a system of transplant coordinators - introduced in 1989 - at all Spanish Hospitals which monitors emergency wards to identify potential donors. Upon learning of a death, they tactfully talk to the families involved to request permission to use organs to help save the lives of those that desperately need them.

The co-ordinators, whose work inspired in the Oscar-winning movie "All About My Mother" by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, often spend hours listening to the relatives and asking them to consider organ donation in a private room away from the hospital wards. Of those families approached as few as 15% ever refuse consent for organ donation a massive fall from the 40% recorded before this system was introduced in the 1980's. A few Hospitals even show an impressive 0% rate of refusal.

A positive decision made by the grieving family can help four patients who need a kidney, lung, liver or heart to have a chance of leading a better life.

Spain's Health Minister is currently working to introducing a similar system throughout the European Union, estimating that if the organ donation rate across the EU increased to similar levels as seen in Spain, the number of donors in the EU could double to 18,000 from just under 9,000 in 2008.

This could save or improve the lives of at least 20,000 more people each year, the ministry said.

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