Health Minister Yael German 370.
(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Most of the hundreds of thousands of people who are registered with the Israel
Transplant organization and carry an ADI card as a potential organ donor would
be shocked to hear that even if their organs are needed and healthy, the
operation may never take place.
This is because hospital surgical teams
are reluctant to use an organ willed by the deceased if a close relative – adult
child, parent or sibling – opposes it. Every year, hundreds of people die for
lack of a kidney, heart, lung, liver, pancreas or others that would save a their
lives, as a result of the severe shortage of organs.
Now, Health Minister
Yael German of Yesh Atid has voiced her support for an arrangement that has long
existed in many countries around the world: The default would be that if a
person suffers brain death and his organ can be used, it will go for transplant
without getting permission from his relatives or even looking for an organ donor
Only if the person stated in his lifetime that he refused to be an
organ donor – with a formal signed statement deposited with some government
agency – would the deceased be buried without giving an organ.
has been proposed here many times in recent years, and health ministers who are
haredi – and others who fear opposition by the ultra-Orthodox parties and
conservative MKs in other factions – have strongly opposed it.
– at least in Israel but not unanimously in the US and other countries – oppose
the use of organs taken from brain-dead individuals whose heart is still
beating, such a liberal proposal to save lives is likely to be doomed in the
German, a former longtime mayor of Herzliya, has been making a
lot of policy statements lately – from the organ donor issue and easing
restrictions on the use of medical cannabis to favoring fortification of food
with vital nutrients to halting mandatory fluoridation.
Some people may
claim German, who came to the office knowing relatively little about national
health issues, was deciding her positions too fast. Maybe so, but many of her
predecessors in the ministry fought reform with much enthusiasm and were afraid
to push for change.
We favor at least some of her suggestions, but not
the end to fluoridation, because it has been proven around the world to protect
in a significant way the teeth of children, especially those in poorer groups
who may not even brush their teeth, let alone use fluoride
Claims that tiny amounts of fluoride added to potable water
cause cancer or thyroid disease have been dismissed by thousands of studies;
fluoridation has been endorsed by everyone from the Israel Dental Association to
the US surgeon-general and the American Dental Association, and the
secretary-general of the World Health Organization.
The dental health of
Israel’s children is shockingly poor, despite hundreds of millions of shekels
being spent by the government on then-deputy health minister MK Ya’acov
Litzman’s program for basic dental treatment by health fund dentists. The budget
bill is likely to at least temporarily curb the program by preventing it from
adding older children – a wise policy until an objective study is made of its
efficacy – or lack of it – in improving youngsters’ dental health.
German is not wrong on making organ donation the default option. People who
oppose giving organs can easily register to refuse to supply their own organs to
save lives. Those who agree to the default system will be pleased. Of course, if
such a bill were enacted, it would have to be accompanied by a major public
service advertising campaign so that people are aware of the change.
Health Ministry, upon which low-level politicians have so often been foisted as
ministers and which has often suffered from unimaginative officials, is to be
congratulated for finally having at its head a person – a woman – who is ready
to think differently and to fight for worthy ideas.