Spain notches up world organ transplant record

Surgeons in Spain transplanted a record number of organs in 2013, the government said on Monday, keeping the country world leader in the field despite heavy health spending cuts.

Spain notches up world organ transplant record
Spain is a long way ahead of other countries in terms of organ donations per head of population. File photo: Jeff Kubina

Transplants of all kinds increased in Spain, particularly lung replacements, up nearly 20 percent, and pancreas transplants, up more than 10 percent, the health ministry said.

A record total of 4,279 transplants were carried out in Spain in 2013, of which 2,552 were of kidneys, 1,093 of livers and 285 of lungs, it said.

"The Spanish transplant system, which has been the world leader for 22 years, has again demonstrated its vitality," said the head of the state National Transplant Organization (ONT), Rafael Matesanz.

"Its activity increased in 2013 in very difficult circumstances," he told a news conference, presenting a transplants report.

Spain's government in 2012 cut the annual national health budget by €7 billion euros ($9.6 billion) a year in its efforts to strengthen public finances, causing waiting lists for non-urgent surgery to lengthen.

But the national transplant system has thrived over the years, with the number of donors increasing from 14 per million people in 1989 to 35 per million in 2011, Matesanz said.

That put Spain far ahead of other countries, with 26 donors per million people in the United States, 25 in France and just under 15 in Germany, according to the transplant body's latest figures from 2011.

The so-called Spanish Model achieved such good results that its organizational measures have been adopted by the World Health Organization and many countries in Europe and Latin America.
"Spain's management model brings the best out in people," ONT told The Local in 2013.
"Ninety percent of bereaved family members tell us that allowing their loved one's organs to be donated helped them to overcome their loss."
Spain is also considered a pioneer in certain complex operations, having carried out some of the first double transplants of arms and legs.

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