NHS should pay for organ donors funerals

Published on Tuesday, 11 October 2011 09:58
Posted by Scott Buckler

The NHS should test the idea of paying for the funerals of organ donors to help tackle the current shortage of organs, says a new report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics

The Council suggests that this would be an ethical way of encouraging more people to sign the Organ Donor Register. Under such a scheme, funeral expenses would be offered if someone who has signed the Organ Donor Register dies in circumstances where their organs can be donated to others.

Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, who chaired the 18-month inquiry which led up to this report, said: “Government initiatives to improve the health of the population are crucial to reducing the number of people in need of organs in the UK, but we must also take reasonable steps towards increasing the number of potential donors. The possibility of sparing relatives the financial burden of a funeral might encourage more people to register as donors”.

“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 Strathern.

In the UK, there are 8,000 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant and they will wait an average of three years for a suitable donor to become available. Three people die every day whilst waiting for an organ. Currently, 18 million people – around 30% per cent of the UK population - are signed up to the Organ Donor Register, but the NHS are aiming to increase this to 25 million by 2013.

The Council’s report, ’Human bodies: donation for medicine and research’, considers how far society should go in trying to encourage people to donate their bodily material, including organs, eggs, sperm, blood, tissue and whole bodies. It concludes that altruism should continue to be central to our approach to all types of donation as it underpins important community values, but this does not exclude the possibility of allowing some form of payment in some circumstances. The report therefore proposes an ‘Intervention Ladder’ to help policy makers consider the ethical acceptability of various ways of encouraging people to donate.

 

Source: Nuffield Council Bioethics

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