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Proceedings of the BMG Symposium "Living Organ Donation"

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Organ donation in Germany is the focus of a broad political and social debate. The conditions for living organ donation are also a controversial issue. A symposium organised by the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) examined the pros and cons of a possible expansion of the circle of donors. DLR Projektträger organised and hosted the symposium.

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5th November 2021 — With an all-day symposium, the BMG brought the topic of living organ donation, i.e. the donation of organs from a living person, into the public focus. It was 25 years ago, with the Transplantation Act, that the German legislator set strict limits on living organ donation to protect donors and prevent organ trafficking. Medicine has made considerable progress in recent years. An international comparison shows that people in many other countries are much more willing to donate a living organ than they are in Germany. The corresponding legal requirements there allow living donation for a larger group of donors, so that patients for whom living organ donation is not possible in Germany seek help abroad. The symposium aimed to provide a forum in which the various medical, legal and ethical aspects could be presented and discussed. In his presentation, Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn also personally underlined his ministry’s concern for a broad debate.

An interactive digital symposium on living organ donation

The symposium was divided into three thematic blocks, beginning with the keynote speech by the renowned transplantation physician Prof Dr Bernhard Banas, the presentation of the pros and cons referred to by affected recipients, their families and donors, and a lecture by Minister Spahn. In a second round, the focus was on experiences from clinical practice and in the last third, legal and ethical issues were discussed. In addition to Spahn, a total of nine speakers renowned in their respective fields from medicine, research, ethics and law as well as from self-help associations were invited to give a presentation. Not only were the participants able to follow the day-long event digitally, they could also participate in the discussion rounds and via a chat with questions and to contribute their own points of view. And virtual coffee breaks provided an opportunity to share ideas in smaller groups.

"Owing to the pandemic, the event had to take place in a purely digital format. With such a sensitive, controversial topic that depends on mutual exchange, it was a real challenge to get the experts and the approximately 160 participants talking to each other," says Dr Alexander Grundmann, who coordinates the BMG project sponsorship at DLR-PT in the Health Division. The result was a smooth process for all participants, whether in the presentations and subsequent discussions in the plenary or in the virtual chat rooms.

Professionally detailed, easy-to-understand documentation

In the documentation of the symposium prepared by DLR-PT, the various aspects are handled in technical detail, but at the same time in a way that is understandable for the interested layperson. The contents are presented in the journalistic format of a report and illustrated with graphics from the presentations. Selected contributions to the discussion, information about the speakers and, in the appendix, a detailed list of sources and further links complete the documentation. The result is a 44-page conference volume that documents the current state of discussion on the topic of living organ donation in its many, also controversial aspects.

Main and Other Contacts

Contact at DLR Projektträger