Vote on controversial organ donor law postponed after debate

A debate on the new, highly controversial, organ donation law in the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate, went on well into the night on Tuesday, but did not come to a decisive end. The Senators want initiator, D66 parliamentarian Pia Dijkstra, to first clarify a number of questions and therefore decided to postpone voting on the law by a week, NOS reports.

The new law basically states that adult residents of the Netherlands will be automatically registered as an organ donor, unless they explicitly object. Instead of the current method in which Dutch are registered as non-donors unless they indicate that they want to donate their organs after they die. Under the new law, if a person does not respond to two prompts to register as a donor or a non-donor - sent automatically to all Dutch when they turn 18 - he will be registered as a donor. Though his next of kin can still object to his organs being donated after he dies.

The Senators want clarity from Dijkstra about the position of the next of kin and doctors in this law. ChristenUnie also wants to make sure that the new law does not violate the Constitution and that the integrity of the human body is guaranteed, according to the broadcaster. 

Dijkstra promised to answer these questions in time for the debate to continue on Tuesday next week. The vote will then happen the following Tuesday, on February 13th.

If the Eerste Kamer passes this law, it can be implemented in July 2020, Minister Bruno Bruins for Medical Care and Sport informed the Eerste Kamer in the debate. The implementation of the law will be preceded by an intensive campaign to make sure everyone n the Netherlands is aware of the new law and the consequences thereof. "All target groups must be reached", Bruins said in the Kamer. "We will consult experts so that all groups, including the low-literate, blind and deaf, understand the new donor law."

Bruins emphasized that the government is maintaining a neutral position on this law, and will therefore not advise senators on how to vote. 

Nico van Meij from Leiden, himself the recipient of two donor lungs and an informer for the Dutch Transplantation Foundation, is disappointed that the debate did not come to a decisive end, he said to Omroep West. "It would have been nice if there had been clarity, but we have to be patient for a while yet", he said. "I received donor lungs myself, so I know what it's like to be on the waiting list, how much hope you can get out of it. If someone told me that he or she registered, I was happy. Of course you do not hope that the person dies, but every extra donor is simply so important."

Nico is determined to stay hopeful. "You always have to keep hope. It sounded a little negative on Tuesday evening, but I hope that the senators will get clarity quickly and that they will vote positively."

How the Senators will vote is still completely unclear. This bill passed through the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, by the narrowest of margins - 75 votes for and 74 votes against.