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Nuffield Council consults on organ donor payments

20 April 2010

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Radical new ideas to encourage organ and tissue donation have been published in a new report by an independent think tank.

Under the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ plans, organ donors would be put on a transplant priority list and their families would be helped with funeral expenses.

The priority list proposal would see donors at the front of the queue for kidney, heart and other organ transplants, while contributions would be made to the funeral expenses of dead donors’ relatives.

Financial incentives, “presumed consent” systems, personal “thank you” letters and certificates and souvenirs such as T-shirts and mugs could also be considered. The financial incentives may range from payments to the regulated selling of organs, eggs or sperm and a fully-fledged free market or just modest expenses.

Dame Marilyn Strathern, Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University and chair of the working party that produced the consultation paper, said: “We could try to increase the number of organ donors by providing stronger incentives, such as cash, paying funeral costs or priority for an organ in the future, but would this be ethical?”

There is a serious shortage of transplant organs, despite 16.5 million Britons having their names on the organ donor register.

Last year, around 3,500 transplant operations were carried out in the UK, but 8,000 patients are waiting for an organ.

The public consultation will last until 13 July, with a report containing recommendations due in the second half of next year.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Nuffield Council on Bioethics