As a mediator between donor and recipient, Eurotransplant plays a key role in the allocation and distribution of donor organs for transplantation.
The mission statement and goals of Eurotransplant express its main target: to ensure an optimal use of available donor organs. The allocation system is based upon medical and ethical criteria. Through conducting and facilitating scientific research Eurotransplant aims at a constant improvement of transplant outcomes.
Eurotransplant is a non-profit service organization which facilitates patient-oriented allocation and cross border exchange of deceased donor organs. Eurotransplant provides services to transplant centers and their associated tissue typing laboratories and donor hospitals in its member states.
To achieve its mission Eurotransplant has set the following goals:
- To achieve an optimal use of available donor organs and tissues;
- To secure a transparent, objective and fair allocation system, in compliance with national rules, based upon medical and ethical criteria;
- To support donor procurement to improve the availability of donor organs and tissues;
- To further improve the results of transplantation through collection and evaluation of donor, recipient, allocation, transplantation and follow-up data, scientific research and to publish and present these results;
- The promotion, support and coordination of organ donation and transplantation in the broadest sense.
Fit for the future
Eurotransplant regards it as a tremendous honor to have celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. During the course of that half century, thousands of lives have been saved with organs which otherwise would not have been transplanted without this form of international cooperation.
As long as there are patients whose only chance of survival lies in an organ donated by another person, Eurotransplant’s work will remain as important as ever. For this reason, the organization is full of plans for the future to further develop international cooperation – in the interest of the waiting list patients. So, what exactly is on the agenda for the years ahead?
Making more and new matches
The very first activity of Eurotransplant involved trying to find the best suitable recipients for donor kidneys. Over time, the organization has extended its activities to other organs – such as the heart, lungs, the liver, the intestine and the pancreas. And it is now planning to make more and also new matches in the years ahead by moving into new and exciting territory in two specific areas.
To date, Eurotransplant has focused its work on the allocation of organs from deceased donors. We are now seeing that successful transplants of kidneys from living donors has become a standard procedure in many countries. The donors in question are the recipients’ relatives or friends, and sometimes even completely anonymous donors.
A ‘crossover program’ has been developed for those cases in which direct donation is not possible, meaning that the donor-recipient couples do not match with each other. In these cases, two couples or even more can be brought together and the donor from one couple can donate an organ to the recipient from the second couple and vice versa. At present, this crossover program is a purely domestic program that is confined to Eurotransplant in the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria. However, this is an area in which Eurotransplant would like to start of international cooperation in countries where this is legally permitted, so that there will be a better chance to match donors and recipients.
More than just allocation
In order to mediate successfully in the allocation of organs from living donors and its VCA procedures Eurotransplant, together with all its partners, needs to develop proposals for objective, transparent, reliable and valid allocation policies for these new fields. This means collecting and analyzing both pre-transplant, transplant and follow-up data. The same applies to nascent techniques such as machine perfusion (in which oxygen and nutrients are pumped through organs outside the human body, in order to preserve them for longer or even make them suitable for transplantation). Eurotransplant wishes to support, facilitate and disseminate studies and act as a source of knowledge for transplant centers and for competent authorities.
Refining the allocation policy
Eurotransplant strives to see donor organs put to their optimal use in the organ-specific life cycle. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to monitor and evaluate allocation outcomes, patient and graft survival rates as well as changes in the waiting list on a continuous basis. This information forms the basis for the refinement of the allocation procedures and policies. Eurotransplant will work together with the transplant centers and the competent authorities even more closely than before to collect relevant medical data on transplant operations, so that allocation – the organization’s main focus – can be further improved and support can be given for national decisions on organ allocation.
Medical science continues to advance, generating a constant stream of new information within the process of organ allocation. The Eurotransplant community and the Eurotransplant Advisory Committees already have access to a massive pool of knowledge on organ donation and transplant procedures. However, there is always scope for improving the accessibility of all this knowledge. This is another area which Eurotransplant is planning to focus on in the years ahead. Eurotransplant will also be stepping up its cooperation and information-sharing with other Organ Exchange Organizations in Europe.
The aim in doing so is not only to learn more from others, but also to enable other countries to benefit from Eurotransplant’s knowledge and experience.
Registration of data
The more that is known about donated organs and how the recipients have managed since the transplant, the easier it is to decide which specific organs are genuinely capable of saving the lives of which patients. Although Eurotransplant is already collecting data on transplants, the organization depends on cooperation with the various transplant centers in the member states and the registration systems used by other national and international organizations and registries. And this is where plenty of progress can still be made. It’s not simply a question of recording more data in the Eurotransplant database. It’s also about achieving a better ‘fit’ between the various individual registration systems and thus making it easier to exchange information. The aim is to make it compulsory for member states to send all relevant data after each transplant operation to Eurotransplant, and to extend and intensify links with other international registries.
Cooperation and growth
Increasing the number of member states is not one of Eurotransplant’s primary aims. It is worth admitting new member states to the network only if this creates benefits for patients, the community and science,
and offers a chance to establish a transparent, well-functioning national donation and transplantation system in the respective country, and thus to aid successful international cooperation. Eurotransplant sees a role, however, for supporting other countries through well-defined transparent teaching and training agreements. Eurotransplant is also keen to forge closer links with sister organizations. Again, the goal is both to learn from each other and to make better matches.
Modifying the governance structure
Over the course of Eurotransplant’s 50 years of existence, the governance of the organization has been adapted several times in order to keep pace with the developments of transplant legislation in the member states, and principles of organizational governance in general. In 2016, to answer the need of a stronger involvement of the competent authorities, the Eurotransplant Board initiated a process to redesign the governance structure of the organization. As of January 2020, Eurotransplant is democratically organized with an Assembly, a Board of Management, a Supervisory Board, two Advisory Councils and eight Advisory Committees. With this structure, a structure has been created that is responsive to Eurotransplant’s members wants and needs, serves centers and the health care professionals efficiently and meets current and future challenges.