Iraq War Saves Germans

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Organ donation is so controversial in Germany that half the country's doctors won't cooperate with the organization that links donors and recipients. Doctors who do perform transplants are harassed, and the donation rate is among the lowest in the Western world. But donation rates are far less dismal at the U.S. military base in Landstuhl–and as Americans die on the base from injuries inflicted in Iraq, their organs are ending up in German bodies. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

In 2005, the U.S. military medical center provided more organs than 198 of the 206 hospitals in the DSO's central donor region, according to the agency's annual report…

German transplant officials fret about exposure—especially in regards to the arrangement they keep with Landstuhl.

There is, they acknowledge, an uneasy irony to the program: Germans are virulently against the war in Iraq. Along with France, Germany was a leader in the anti-war movement during United Nations debate in 2002. And recent polls show German opinion has only grown more negative.

"We do not pretend that this does not complicate things," said Dietmar Mauer, a supervisor in the DSO's regional office in Mainz.

Mauer would prefer the Landstuhl agreement were kept a secret, for fear of derailing the program. "We are trying to save lives, but some people would not understand this," he said.

Whole thing here.

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  1. I can’t wait for Sean Hannity to get wind of this.

  2. International disputes may matter for outsiders, but for the families, donors, and recipients involved it’s about saving a life after a tragic loss. I salute everyone involved for their sacrifices and humanity.

  3. My first impulse was to type something snarky about principles…but then I read Thoreau’s comment…I think he’s got it absolutely right.

  4. The article did give a bit of insight into the Germans’ attitude that makes it a little more understandable.

    The families of the American donors deserve a big salute.

  5. Let me ask an obvious question. Why are the organs going to germans? Does the US not have a large nubers of ready and needing recepients? Does the donor’s family have a choice or do they have no idea where the oragns end up?

  6. Why are the organs going to germans? Does the US not have a large nubers of ready and needing recepients?

    If the death occurs at a hospital in Germany, there probably isn’t ample time to send the organ to the US, so it would be useless in the US. The organ is used where it can be used.

    Now, if you ask why the injured soldiers go to Germany rather than the US, my guess would be that it’s because (1) Germany is closer to Iraq and (2) there’s already a large and well-equipped military hospital there.

  7. val:

    I believe that organs removed from a donor have a short shelf-life. This could explain why they don’t get shipped to the US.

  8. If the death occurs at a hospital in Germany, there probably isn’t ample time to send the organ to the US, so it would be useless in the US. The organ is used where it can be used.

    Now, if you ask why the injured soldiers go to Germany rather than the US, my guess would be that it’s because (1) Germany is closer to Iraq and (2) there’s already a large and well-equipped military hospital there.

    thoreau,

    Fair enough, that was a balanced and a well reasoned answer……..damn you

  9. Fair enough, that was a balanced and a well reasoned answer……..

    That’s our thoreau! Isn’t he adorable, folks?

  10. Germans simply do not trust their government to decide who should live and who should die, the University of Wisconsin professor said.
    “For Germans, the question of who has the right to do what with an individual’s body is a very real one,” she said.

    I can completely sympathize w/ the Germans on this point.

  11. Organ donation is so controversial in Germany that half the country’s doctors won’t cooperate with the organization that links donors and recipients. Doctors who do perform transplants are harassed, and the donation rate is among the lowest in the Western world

    Allow me to quote South Park: “Dude, what the fuck is wrong with German people?

  12. Germans simply do not trust their government to decide who should live and who should die, the University of Wisconsin professor said.
    “For Germans, the question of who has the right to do what with an individual’s body is a very real one,” she said.

    I can completely sympathize w/ the Germans on this point.

  13. This wouldn’t be an issue if there was a market for organs.

  14. Germans simply do not trust their government to decide who should live and who should die, the University of Wisconsin professor said.
    “For Germans, the question of who has the right to do what with an individual’s body is a very real one,” she said.

    If they don’t want to donate, fine. But harrassing doctors who perform transplants and picketing houses of organ donors’ families? That goes beyond making a personal choice and trying to force a choice on others.

  15. “This wouldn’t be an issue if there was a market for organs.”

    A market doesn’t seem to reduce the controversy over fur, why would it help with organs?

  16. Ah, but it took a German to bring us Body Worlds. Anything goes when you’re dead.

    http://www.bodyworlds.com/index.html

  17. Ah, muchsarcsam,

    When we have decided what is best for each individual, how can an individual disregard our decision?

  18. Jon H:

    “A market doesn’t seen to reduce the controversy over fur, why would it help with organs?”

    Because we kill animals specifically to harvest their fur, we don’t kill people for their organs, they’re already dead. A market for organs would help reduce the organ shortage problem.

  19. Germans simply do not trust their government to decide who should live and who should die, the University of Wisconsin professor said.

    Welcome to nationalized healthcare. See you on the other side…

  20. A market doesn’t seem to reduce the controversy over fur, why would it help with organs?

    Bingo. Markets are great things, they can solve a lot of problems, but let’s not over-state the pro-market case and pretend that markets eliminate controversies. They don’t. What they do is make it possible for people to conduct business more efficiently, which is not the same as reducing controversy and the associated consequences. A person who does something controversial in a free market might find himself in a tight spot (if he alienates off too many potential customers) or he might ride the wave of free publicity to great wealth. Either way, it’s not like a free market means “Everybody will shut up and not get upset over this from now on.”

  21. And for just one example of how a market based solution could create more controversy, think of the poor individual dying of terminal disease. Might he be tempted to check out a little early, while his organs are still usable, in order to earn a better payout for his family? Now that’s a choice that I beleive should absolutely be his, but a lot of people are going to be uncomfortable with that, and its a situation that doesn’t arise under the current system.

  22. Nothing to see here. Basically, there are countries with opt-in and opt-out schemes for post-mortem organ donations.

    Germany has an opt-in scheme, like Denemark, Greece, UK, Netherlands etc.etc.

    Opt-in schemes exist e.g. in Austria, Spain, Swdeden, France and Poland etc.etc.

    Among the opt-out countries Spain leads (worldwide!) in organ donations with 27 per millon inhabitants per year, last (among EU countries with opt-out), is Ireland, with 10.

    Among opt-in countries, the Netherlands leads with 16, last is Greece, tied with the UK, with 6. Germany has 13.

    In case you wonder, the U.S. has mostly an opt-in system like Germany (depends on the state). The numbers are computed differently than the EU system and so are not directly comparable. You go and do the maths yourself. Suffice to say that they are below even the UK count.

    So before some of you engage in instinctive Euro-bashing you better look at the numbers.

    Another point: “In the past five years, Germans have donated organs at a rate lower than any other member nation of the Eurotransplant International Foundation” (quote from the article). This is true, but Eurotransplant counts only cross-border transplants, and so its numbers are sytstematically biased against large countries, who have statistically less ‘abroard’, within a fixed radius from any point of their territory. If a liver is available in tiny Luxemburg, very likely a match is found in France or Germany. If a liver becomes available in Germany it is pretty likely to find a domestic match within the same 2 hour radius. Just maths, nothing sinister.

    “In Germany, where organ transplantation is as socially sensitive a topic as abortion in the United States…” (quote) This is a joke, right?

  23. Oh, I forgot: “More than half of the nation’s physicians refuse to cooperate with the DSO” (quote from the article). Nonsense! The DSO doesn’t cooperate with individual physicians at all, it cooperates with hospitals. 45% of hospitals are members of the DSO, so this is probably where this “less than half” came from.

    Cooperation with the DSO is mandatory by law (Tansplantationsgesetz from 1997), so the 55% who don’t cooperate are probably dental cilincs, day care centres, and those without the necessary facilities.

    Seriously, I ask myself if the article author is incompetent or just mean.

  24. “So before some of you engage in instinctive Euro-bashing you better look at the numbers”

    Screw that, I wanna keep bashing. Did you know Norway has an official state religion?

    I got 1870 hits on google for “europe sucks”. I’ll be back after I read em. Oh crap, I got 44,200 for “USA sucks”. I’ll be back with my comparison/contrast paper in 2018.

  25. I know Europe by-and-large has guilt issues, but I thought that Germany had finally gotten that whole Frankenstein business behind them.

  26. RealMenOfGenius:

    Damn, I never thought of that. “This guy doesn’t have and medical insurance, should we spend $50,000 we’ll never get back trying to save him, or should we let him die and harvest $10,000 worth of organs?” That could be my uninsured ass lying there.

  27. Now that’s a choice that I beleive should absolutely be his, but a lot of people are going to be uncomfortable with that, and its a situation that doesn’t arise under the current system.

    People’s discomfort should not be the basis for legal prohibitions on free choice.

  28. virulently? Not sure that’s the word….

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