Organ donation tourism in Spain | DW English

Music producer Tomas de Niero urgently needs
a new kidney. And it’s not the first time. He had a transplant 14 years ago when both
his own kidneys failed. He was already living on the Spanish island
of Mallorca at the time. And that might have saved his life. “It was pure luck. I emigrated to Spain in 2001. And then two years later, when my kidneys
failed, I was in a country where you can get kidneys four or five times faster than in
Germany. It was pure luck!” He’s hoping this time he’ll also get a new
kidney without too much delay, because in Spain, more people donate organs after they
die than anywhere else in the world. That’s because by law, everyone there is automatically
an organ donor unless they actively opt out. It’s a well-organized system. For the moment, Tomas still has to have to
have peritoneal dialysis every day. It takes hours, and limits his activities
dramatically. He’d have to wait about eight years on average
in Germany for a new kidney. In Spain, the waiting list is just two years
long. Reason enough for some to try to fiddle the
system: “Some Germans are now declaring that they
live in Spain. I know two or three who’ve created a pretend
life here…buying houses, setting up small firms…all so they can benefit from the Spanish
healthcare system.” Miguel Ángel Feriol had a liver transplant
10 years ago. Today, he’s back in good shape. Miguel has a problem with people coming from
abroad just to benefit from the Spanish system…although he also sympathizes:
“I can’t imagine what it must be like to have wait for so many years. I know what waiting means. It’s not a life. But for me it went by fast. .”
Miguel understands the need. But he also regrets that the rise in transplant
tourism means that people who really do live in Spain will have to wait longer for a donor
organ. “Spaniards donate their organs for people
in Spain. Of course, we know that an organ — a liver,
a kidney — might be sent elsewhere if it’s not needed here. But if more and more people come here for
transplants, then this will have to be stopped. That’s the only thing that makes sense.” Transplant tourism is technically banned in
the EU, but it’s also difficult to control. Many kidney transplants are carried out at
the university hospital in Palma de Mallorca. The senior consultant here has operated on
many Germans. He treats anybody with a need. It’s not his job to determine whether a foreigner
actually lives in Spain, or just pretends to in order to benefit from the system. “There’s freedom of movement in the EU. So it’s hard to distinguish. That’s why the authorities have to ensure
there’s order, and why they have to set clear rules.” The pressure is rising. Now the National Transplant Organization at
the Spanish health ministry has developed new criteria for foreign patients. In the future, only people who have lived
in Spain for a minimum of two years will be eligible to receive organs. “We have to check things much more closely. Only people who have a lot of money can pretend
to be living here. People with less fall by the wayside, and
have to wait longer in their own countries for an organ donation.” Tomas de Niero can’t understand why there
aren’t more organ donors in Germany. He blames a lack of coordination, and the
fact that you have to expressly state that you want to donate your organs when you die. “It’s terrible that people from Germany are
going abroad — even to India — to get an organ they can’t get at home because of a
dumb rule, which really needs to be changed now.” Everyone who dies on Spanish soil is a potential
organ donor. So who knows? One day, a German tourist could be the one
to save Tomas de Niero’s life.

5 thoughts on “Organ donation tourism in Spain | DW English

  1. In Spain, they don,t extract orgams without permission. Autorities normally ask for permission to the deceased relatives, but it's well organised and relatives usually agreed for solidarity

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