NHS should pay donors for organs


By Cara Sulieman

THE NHS should PAY people for their organs, according to new proposals from a think tank.

The controversial plan comes from a fellow at The Adam Smith Institute (ASI) who believes it would speed up the waiting list for transplants.

Tim Worstall – a fellow with the group – is floating the idea independently of the think tank.

The only country in the world that allows organs to be swapped for cash is Iran.

And it goes against the ethical guidelines set down by the NHS and medical groups said there are “no plans” to change policy.

Every year in Scotland 180 people receive a new kidney, but with 700 still on the waiting list the question of how to encourage people to donate is pertinent.

Tim Worstall from the ASI said that rather than increasing costs for the NHS, paying for organs would save cash.

He said: “Less death, better health and all for less money, what could possible be wrong with this idea?

“It’s time to challenge standard medical opinion that it’s unethical to pay healthy donors for organs.”

Buying a kidney would save a quarter of a million pounds compared to keeping a patient on dialysis for ten years.

In the UK 16 million people are on the donor register and around 400 die whilst waiting for transplant.

Mr Worstall – a fellow with the ASI – said: “Iran is the only country where it’s legal to pay donors for organs.

“It’s also about the only country without a long waiting list for kidneys for transplantation.

“Kidney transplant is cost effective compared to dialysis.

“The average cost to the NHS of dialysis is £30,800 per year – while the cost of kidney transplantation is £17,000, followed by £5,000 annual spend on drugs.

“That means over a period of 10 years – the time a transplanted kidney survives in a patient’s body – the benefit is £241,000 per patient.

“The payment to the donor amounts to roughly two years’ minimum wage in Iran – around £25,000.

“A paid market is cheap. Even if we include payment to the donor – assuming it comes from public funds – the saving over the 10 years is 70 per cent of the cost of dialysis.”

The chief executive of the National Kidney Federation, Tim Stratham – said that his group wouldn’t be opposed to the proposal if it was properly regulated by the Government.

But the idea has been dismissed by medical groups, who argue that paying for organs would lead to more unsuitable donors coming forward.

A BMA spokeswoman said: “Individuals who need money will be more likely to expose themselves to risk.”

And a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Human Tissue (Scotland) Act prohibits trafficking in organs and there are no plans to change that.

“We recognise the need to increase the number of organs available and plan an advertising campaign to address the issue later this year.”

Guidance on paying for donation applies to other areas of medicine as well, with the Scottish blood transfusion service opposed to the idea as well despite falling donor numbers.

Last September, schoolboy Andrew Dannet submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament suggesting that the service hand out cash in return for blood.

But the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service said that the only way to ensure that donations were clean was to rely on volunteers.

Dr Moira Carter, National Donor Services Manager, said: “There’s a huge amount of advice in relation to this.

“It is widely recognised that the best way to ensure blood safety is to only use voluntary non-remunerated donors.

“The World Health Organisation advice states that this is the cornerstone of blood safety.”


  1. One very slight correction please. I am indeed a Fellow at the ASI but this is myself floating this idea, it isn’t a formal proposal from the ASI itself.

  2. I am against paying donors for their organs. To me the thought is quite offensive. I willingly gave my kidney. Had I been offered money I would not have donated. Saving someone’s life for money is just not an option for me. It’s like passing a drowning man and asking him for money before jumping in to save him. You say about Iran “It’s also about the only country without a long waiting list for kidneys for transplantation”. That may be true but have you looked into how many people who really do need dialysis and/or a kidney are not even on Iran’s waiting list? If you check out this article http://cjasn.asnjournals.org/cgi/content/full/1/6/1136 and scroll down to “Elimination of the Renal Transplant Waiting List” you will see that many people are not even receiving treatment when they do in deed require it. That is not to say those people would receive the require transplant by paying donors.

    What happens when a donor is one of those minorities that dies or suffers one of the other complications that arises from any operation let alone a kidney donation? Can they sue the hospital? What compensation will they get? Or just by signing the consent form and banking their donor payment is enough to keep them quiet?

    Paying donors is not going to stop people from requiring a kidney. More education is needed so people look after their health and do not get kidney problems in the first place. I know some disease is hereditary and cannot be avoided but most is due to bad life style. So Governments are more willing to pay people to donate rather than putting that money to education? I can think of more than one instance where governments have bolted the door after the horse has bolted instead of trying to secure the door in the first place.

    Yes, something needs to be done, but paying people to save someones life? That does not sit well with me at all. Maybe some sort of long term benefits such as full annual medicals or?? would sit a bit better especially as an organ has been taken from them.

    I do not know what the answer is but there has to be something other than paying people.

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