Fallen US soldiers have saved hundreds of lives by donating their organs in European countries with huge organ shortages, report reveals
- An NBC report reveals US soldiers have saved many European lives by organ donation
- Their organs wouldn’t make it across the Atlantic, so they have been donated locally
- In Germany, organ donation is still taboo and thousands die waiting for organs
- Since 2003, 236 organs have been donated by 83 US officers to patients in eight European countries after they were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq
- That includes 25-year-old David Smith, killed by a suicide bomb in January 2010
Dozens of fallen US soldiers have given dying Europeans a second chance at life by donating their organs.
In Germany, and other nearby countries, organ donations are more taboo than in the United States. In 2018, 2,000 of the 10,000 people waiting for an organ died on a barely-budging list.
According to a new report by NBC, the families of US servicemen have helped provide a glimmer of hope to at least a few hundred of people who were not expected to make it.
Their organs – particularly their hearts, lungs and livers – would not have been viable after an hours-long flight back to the US, but could be given to locals in need.
Since 2003, 236 organs have been donated by 83 US officers to patients in eight European countries after they were killed or suffered unsurvivable wounds on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq.
That includes 25-year-old David Smith, whose mother Mary McWilliams spoke to NBC about being flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in January 2010 to her son’s hospital bedside.
Sgt David J Smith (pictured with his girlfriend Kim and their dog Jade) saved lives by donating his organs after suffering head injuries from a suicide bomb in Afghanistan
Smith, who was in the Marine Corps, suffered fatal head wounds stood near a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, and doctors spent days trying to treat him.
McWilliams told NBC she was brought to see her son to say goodbye, and to discuss his donating his organs.
She agreed, checking a box that had been left blank.
Now, she says, at least four people are living on his behalf, a man who would have been around the same age as him (now 34) with his heart, a teen with his liver, and others with his kidney and pancreas.
The German Foundation for Organ Transplantation told NBC that contributions from Smith and other American servicemen have been significant.
There are moves to make more organs more accessible in Germany, where scandals and tradition have scared citizens from checking that all-important donor box.
In April, Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister, proposed a bill that would force Germans to opt out rather than opt in to donating their organs.
Smith’s mother told NBC at least four people are living on his behalf – a man who would have been around the same age as him (now 34) with his heart, a teen with his liver, and others with his kidney and pancreas
‘Twenty out of 28 European Union countries have similar systems and everything we have tried so far hasn’t led to a rise in donor figures,’ Spahn said.
But for now, the organ donation center set up at Landstuhl has been key to providing some relief for patients in need.
‘Every organ that is donated in Germany is a success story because we only had 955 organ donors in 2018, from a population of 80 million,’ Ana Barreiros, a doctor who works with the foundation, told the site.