By Claire Bates
Legalise sale of human organs to end ‘transplant tourism’, say surgeons
Leading surgeons have called on the Government to consider legalising the sale of human organs for transplants.
People can currently donate organs such as a kidney while still alive but cannot make money from them. They also can’t decide who the organs go to.
Many doctors, such as Professor Nadey Hakim, think this policy should be urgently reconsidered.
Professor Hakim, a Harley Street surgeon, believes a regulated market would stop desperate sick people from travelling abroad to buy organs on the black market.
He said this ‘transplant tourism’ can lead to botched operations and patients often require further surgery when they return to the UK.
Professor John Harris, of Manchester University, supports a debate of the issue and has developed proposals for an ‘ethical market.’
Under his plan, the NHS would be the sole supplier of organs. Consent would be required and checks would be made to make sure the donor wasn’t under any pressure.
‘Being paid doesn’t nullify altruism,’ he told The Independent.
‘Doctors aren’t less caring because they are paid. With the current system everyone gets paid except the donor.’
Professor Sir Peter Bell, now retired, said financial rewards could potentially help to end the organ shortage.
The former vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons suggested a reasonable fee for a kidney would be up to £100,00.
However, there remains stiff opposition to an organ marketplace, including from the British Transplantation Society.
BTS president Keith Rigg, said: ‘One argument against a regulated market is if you are paying some people, what would be the impact on the existing deceased donor programme and living donor programme?’
Dr Simon Rippon of the University of Oxford agreed. He said the sale of organs might paradoxically reduce the supply as it could put off people with charitable motives from donating.
He told Mail Online: ‘There have been large-scale comparative studies of blood donor systems, where it was found that introducing payments to donors actually reduced the amount of blood donated.
Dr Rippon also pointed to studies of donors in developing countries such as India where the organ market led to widespread exploitation of the poor.
In one 2002 study, scientists surveyed 300 people from Chennai in India who had sold a kidney around six months before. They found 96% had sold their organs to pay off debts but since they only received $1,000 three-quarters remained in debt. Eight out of 10 said they would not recommend others to sell a kidney.