Organ and tissue donation is only possible after consent has been given, pursuant to the Transplantation Act. In Switzerland, six human organs can be donated and transplanted: the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, small intestine and pancreas. The pancreas can be transplanted as an entire organ or as cell suspension of islets of Langerhans (which are responsible for insulin production, among other things). Tissues and cells which can be transplanted include the cornea, skin, foetal membranes (amnion and chorion), heart valves and large blood vessels, bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments and haemocytoblasts.

Donation after death
Organ donation is only possible if the donor’s death has been established beyond any doubt. This is either due to brain death – the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain functions – or irreversible cardiac arrest. Consent is a mandatory requirement for organ donation. The surgical incision is the only visible indication that organs have been removed from a body, meaning the deceased’s next of kin can say goodbye with dignity and in peace.

A declaration of consent is also required for tissue donation. Tissues may be removed up to 24 hours after death has occurred. As is the case with organ donation, the deceased’s body is handed over to the family in a complete, dignified state, ready for the funeral.

Living donations
In Switzerland, the kidneys are the organ most commonly taken from living donors. Part of the liver may also be transplanted as a living donation.

In the case of tissues, the majority of living donations are made during an operation. For example, femoral heads can be donated by patients fitted with an artificial hip joint, or foetal membranes for covering lesions can be donated in the case of a C-section. Haemocytoblasts represent the most common living donation.