December 6, 2022

Organ donors need compensation, says UK bioethics think tank

Organ donors should have their funerals subsidised and women who donate their eggs for research should be paid, says an influential British bioethics think tank. In a new report, “Human bodies: donation for medicine and research”, the Nuffield Council for Bioethics argues that altruism should remain at the heart of organ and tissue donation — but people do respond more readily to financial incentives.

 

Organ donors should have their funerals subsidised and women who donate their eggs for research should be paid, says an influential British bioethics think tank. In a new report, “Human bodies: donation for medicine and research”, the Nuffield Council for Bioethics argues that altruism should remain at the heart of organ and tissue donation — but people do respond more readily to financial incentives.

“Paying for the funerals of organ donors would be ethically justified — no harm can come to the donor, and it would be a form of recognition from society. We think a pilot scheme to test the public response to the idea is worth trying, alongside other schemes,” said Professor Marilyn Strathern, the chair of an inquiry into the issues.

The Council argues that a cap on reimbursement of expenses for egg and sperm donation for reproductive purposes should be maintained. However, a more enticing inducement is needed to acquire eggs for research. The US experience suggests that without payment, there will be no eggs for human embryonic stem cell research. Stem cell scientists at Harvard University spent two years and $100,000 on advertising and found only one egg donor.

“Donating eggs for research purposes is different from donating to help someone else’s treatment. You’re not usually trying to help a particular individual — you are more a participant in a research exercise. A good comparison is that we already pay healthy volunteers to test medicines,” said Professor Strathern.

Michael Cook
commercialization
organ donation
UK