Important Estonian medical law news

Estonia: On 1 March 2015 a new law regulating organ donation entered into force in Estonia.

 The new “Handling and Transplantation of Cells, Tissues and Organs Act” replaced the old law with the same name on March 1st 2015. For the sake of clarity, we call cells, tissues and organs “organs” in this article.

“This change in the law is relevant for every Estonian who would like to donate organs in future, and for people who need a donation to save their lives,” stated Estonia’s Minister for Health and Labour matters, Urmas Kruuse. “Organising organ donations has now become more comprehensive and transparent.”

Previously, organs could only be donated by a living donor to near relatives (own children, spouses, parents, grandparents and their children); now everybody can donate their organs to anyone with a “genetic or emotional bond”. A genetic bond applies to relatives, while for an emotional bond a friendship is sufficient. In order to assess the reasons for a donation the donor has first to go through psychological counselling. The donor also has to be informed about the reason, the method, results, risks and other circumstances of the organ transplant. Until the organ is removed, the donor can withdraw consent at any time.

To indicate consent (or no consent) to donate organs after death, everyone can record their decision with a digital signature in the electronic health system ( or carry a donation document on their person. The decision can be revoked at any time. In the absence of a declaration, relatives of a deceased person will be asked for consent to donate organs.

Donating organs is voluntary and may only be used for healing purposes. Therefore a donor must not receive financial remuneration or other economic advantage from the donation; indeed, this would even be punishable by law.

Further important news is the setting up of a central waiting list for organ transplants, where all persons waiting for transplanted organs in Estonia due to medical necessity should register. Organs can be transplanted to persons who are registered on the list and who are Estonian citizens living in Estonia, foreigners with a long-term residence permit or EU citizens with a permanent residence permit. Until now such a list was not regulated by law.

Source: State Gazette, RT I, 26.02.2015, 1


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