National Campaign to Promote Awareness about Organ Donation and Transplantation “Yes to Life!” Launched

 On 5 November, the Ministry of Health and Executive Agency “Medical Supervision” launched the National Campaign to promote awareness about organ donation and transplantation “Yes to Life!” Campaign activities will continue until 5 December this year. “My team and I see this campaign as one of the most important projects we are working on. Because organ donation is an act of caring that is unparalleled in nature, and transplantation is the unmatched medical advance that saves human lives. It grants the wishes of thousands of people in need to be with their loved ones and lead lives of quality of dignity”, said Kiril Ananiev, the Minister of Health, at the campaign’s official launch.

Currently, around 1200 people are in need of organ transplantation, while only 32 transplantations from deceased donors and 12 from living donors have been performed so far this year. The low organ donor rates prevent Bulgaria from becoming a full member of the Eurotransplant organisation, which would enable Bulgarian patients to receive organs in urgent cases as well as transplantations in other countries, as Mr. Ananiev further explained.

“Increasing the number of transplantations in Bulgaria is a mission of immediate importance and long overdue for completion in the name those Bulgarian citizens for whom, while they wait for a donor, every day could be their last. It would be wonderful if each and every one of us embraced the mission to grow the number of donors in Bulgaria as a personal cause, because we realise that the end of our time on earth may be a new beginning for someone else, that it could bring new meaning to their life. This is precisely what organ donation does – it gives new life, saving thousands of people in need”, the Minister said. He added that the scarcity of organs is a major problem not just in Bulgari but worldwide, too. The number of rejections field donation coordinators receive from families of brain dead patients is growing. Consequently, the Ministry’s efforts in this campaign will be directed at providing as clear and detailed information as possible about what organ donation is, how it happens and under what circumstances.

50 000 donor cards were printed in a pilot project as part of the National Campaign to Promote Organ Donation and Transplantation “Yes to Life!” A donor card records the owner’s consent for their organs to be donated only in case of indisputable, clinically confirmed brain death. The card is not an official document for doctors or institutions in Bulgaria, it merely signals to the deceased person’s family what their wishes were regarding their organs. While the campaign lasts, donor cards will be handed out in 27 cities in Bulgaria by Bulgarian Red Cross volunteers. BRC is the Ministry of Health’s partner in the campaign. The donor card can also be found and printed out at the campaign’s official website:

Minister Ananiev further announced that preparation and coordination of the National Programme to Promote Organ Donation and Support Transplantation in Bulgaria are in their final stages. The programme’s objectives are to successfully engage all healthcare facilities in the transplantation process system, to improve the mechanism for data collection, assessment and analysis of the state of organ donation, to introduce and implement a donor assessment and conditioning system, etc.

“With the very creation of the Executive Agency “Medical Supervision”, we started to actively work to promote donation and transplantation in Bulgaria as one of the institution’s top priorities. As part of these efforts I personally visited almost all donation centres in the regional hospitals, and sat with their directors and coordinators. I sought not only to boost their work, but to learn about the problems they encounter along the way so we can look for appropriate solutions”, Mr. Rosen Ivanov, EAMS executive director, said at the opening press conference for the “Yes to Life!” National Campaign.

Elaborating further, Mr. Ivanov said that several main groups of issues were identified during these meetings at the regional centres. The first and foremost issue had to do with the low activity and direct engagement levels of donation coordinators. With the exception of 4–5 fairly active centres, the rest were not productively engaged. One of the reasons was that anaesthesiologists were few and thus overworked and exhausted. The second most pressing array of issues concerned awareness. The internal relationships between the various units of a healthcare facility was identified as another serious problem. Tensions were also found between the donation centre and other healthcare facilities in the region, mostly the local emergency medical service. Communications with donors’ loved ones, predominantly due to the low awareness of brain dead patients’ families, was yet another area in need of solutions. On the organisational side, a need for constant and upgrading training for all donation coordinators was identified, the EAMS director added during his speech.

Media partners for the campaign are the Bulgarian National Television, bTV, NOVA TV, the Bulgarian National Radio, the Bulgarian News Agency, Darik Radio, and the daily publications 24 chasa, Capital, Dnevnik, and Offnews.

The campaign also enjoys support from music schools and universities across the country.

“Yes to Life!” has also found advocates in prominent Bulgarians such as Professor Hristo Pimpirev, Georgi Gospodinov, Petar Stoychev, Nevyana Vladinova, Silvia Lulcheva, Neda Spasova, Koyna Ruseva, Snezhina Petrova.

You can find pictures from the event in our gallery.

The polling agent Alpha Research created a special sociological survey for the campaign.

Click to download the file