Paying people to donate organs is not the way to solve this crisis

Switching to an opt-out system would be far healthier for society

Share

On average, three people a day die throughout the UK while waiting for a donated organ. Not surprisingly, considerable efforts are put into finding ways of maximising the number of organs available. Substantial progress has been made over the last five years, through improvements to the infrastructure and increased funding and staffing. These efforts need to continue, but what more can be done?

In the last few days, media attention has focused on two options – a paper from Canadian researchers, proposing payment of up to $10,000 for living kidney donation, and a report showing public support for an opt-out system for deceased organ donation in Northern Ireland. The BMA has considered both of these options, and others, in its report Building on progress: where next for organ donation policy in the UK?

There are likely to be few takers for a ‘free market’ in organs but proposals are put forward every so often for a form of ‘regulated market’. One model is for a single authorised purchaser, such as the NHS, which controls payments, authorises donations and allocates organs on the basis of clinical need. Ethically, we believe that any organ donation should be a gift, freely and voluntarily given and that any shift away from altruism in organ donation would be detrimental both to the organ donation programme and, more generally, to UK society.

Our major concern is that those who contemplate selling their organs for money are likely to be in a vulnerable position and may put themselves at risk by dismissing any concerns they have in order to gain the money they desperately need. This raises serious issues of exploitation and questions about the validity of any consent provided.

The introduction of an opt-out system, with safeguards, would be our preferred option, where people would have exactly the same choice as under the current structure but the default position would assume that they want to help others after their death. We believe that, combined with developments to the infrastructure, this will increase the number of deceased donors, but more than that, it will lead to a change in thinking, where organ donation after death will become the societal norm.

If someone chooses not to donate, the opt-out system also provides added protection for them as there is a formal mechanism for recording objections and ensuring that those wishes are followed. Such a system will only work if it has public support but surveys of public opinion have indicated growing enthusiasm for such a change.

Wales has recently passed legislation and will move to an opt-out system in December 2015. In Northern Ireland, a consultation on a similar change has received support from 82.4 per cent of respondents and the UK Government has announced that it will review the Human Tissue Act 2004, the legislation that covers organ donation. This is a fantastic opportunity for the Government to review its position on opt-out in England and to facilitate a proper informed public debate. We very much hope they will take it.  

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all