Transplant watchdog launches crackdown on
illegal trade of organs
New rules aim to prevent donors using social networking sites to buy and sell organs
New rules governing organ transplants are being drawn up amid concern about money changing hands illegally as patients make direct pleas to potential donors on social networking sites.
The transplant watchdog, the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), today said that it had seen an increase in people seeking strangers online to donate kidneys and livers and was publishing new guidelines next month to keep pace with developments.
The HTA said that it was examining the legality of a US donor matching website that launched its British version today which allows people seeking organs to speak directly with potential living donors. Under the NHS transplant scheme, altruistic living donors are not told who receives their kidney and a medical panel decides who needs it the most.
It is not illegal to specify who should receive a donated organ but the donor cannot receive any payment or reward. Both parties face physical and psychological reviews before any treatment can go ahead. The procedure is not without risk: there is a one in 3,000 chance of death to the donator of a kidney, which can rise to one in 200 for anyone donating part of a liver.
The sensitivity and potential profitability of organ donation was highlighted in an assessment by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) which earlier this month said that it had identified three cases of trafficking for the purposes of organ harvesting.
Soca said that each of the cases was discovered before any organs were removed “due to standard border and medical checking processes”. It declined to give further details.
Paul Dooley, the chief executive of Matching Donors, said that his non-profit organisation had security checks which had weeded out potential donors from Cameroon, China and India who were seeking to sell their organs through the website for thousands of dollars. It said that all of its potential donors were from North America.
Briton Saira Khan, the first woman to sign up to the UK version of the website, today said that she had previously secured a US donor through another website, but the transplant had been halted on medical grounds.
Mrs Khan, 39, from Wimbledon, southwest London, said that one London hospital had declined to carry out the operation, but a second had agreed in the event of a suitable donor being found.
In her message online, Mrs Khan appealed for help saying that her kidney had been damaged by disease and she needed to look after three young children.
“Everything is happening on the internet,” she told The Independent. “Why not do it this way? There are egg donors, sperm donors and you can get married to whoever you want to online.”
She added: “Unless they are convinced, the hospital isn’t going to do it.”
Allan Marriott-Smith, director of strategy and quality at the HTA, said that its review of the Matching Donors website showed that it charged up to $595 for organ recipients to register. “The HTA’s independent check is in place to reassure everyone that no reward has been or will be given for the donation; and the donor has given consent to the removal of their organ,” he said. Mr Dooley said that everyone working on the website was a volunteer and it made virtually no money.
The HTA said it had assessed 1,200 cases of living donates in 2011/12, with more than 90 percent of them involving family and close friends.
Life & Style blogs
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 How We Met: Alison Moyet & Emma Kennedy: 'I knew we'd be friends because she was happy to make a prat of herself'
£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...
£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...