Ah, Spain. It’s a land of beautiful countryside, colorful history, wonderful food and wine and cutting edge organ and limb transplantations.
Yes, that’s right. Spain is a world leader, if not the world leader, in transplantations. In fact, the country has been recognized by groups such as the Red Cross, the European Union and the World Health Organization for its outstanding efforts in transplantation of organs, tissues and cells. Organizations like these have called for other countries to follow the “Spanish model” of promoting and coordinating transplants.
How did Spain rise to such an enviable position of leadership in transplantation in the world community?
It started in the year 1980 with the founding of the ONT, or the National Transplantation Organization (Organizacion Nacional de Transplantes) under the Spanish Ministry of Health. Its goal is to maximize the number of transplants possible for Spanish citizens regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic situation. With cooperation, efficacy and solidarity as guiding principles, the ONT works to coordinate donation, extraction, preservation, distribution, exchange and transplantation of organs and tissues.
The success of the ONT has been remarkable. Since its founding, the rate of transplantation in Spain has increased 280 percent. Even more impressive, Spain now leads the world in overall transplant rate: 34.4 per million people. More than 4,000 transplant operations were conducted in Spain in 2009, almost twice that of any other European nation, and Spain has the lowest family refusal rate of any country in the world.
The global community is taking notice. Earlier this summer, along with a Canadian organization called The Transplantation Society, the ONT shared the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation—an honor sometimes referred to as the Ibero-American version of the Nobel Prizes.