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.”