Controversy: Compensating Organ Donors — Should We?
The issue of compensating organ donors is important. A decade ago it was rarely discussed, today the discussion is increasing in frequency and getting some very serious consideration by leading transplant physicians, medical ethicists, government regulators, insurance companies, politicians and many others.
I have not ventured into controversial issues before but this one is too important to ignore. Let’s begin a discussion here, to get your comments and ideas. I’ll make sure they are passed on to legislators, regulators, the health care industry and other important audiences.
The primary consideration is this; “How do we stop the dying by increasing the number of organ donations?” We know that each year the number of people dying has increased. Organ donation advocacy is wonderful and has met with some success but — it hasn’t been effective enough. Can we devise some kind of compensation program that does not encourage the “sale” of organs?
Below I have included excerpts on the issue from three sources along with the URL’s so you can read the entire story. Please comment. This is one of the most important issues we can discuss.
ABC News story on Donor Compensation http://abcnews.go.com/US/Story?id=91551&page=1
ABC News story excerpt:“Dr. Lewis Teperman, director of transplantation at New York University Medical Center, says there are about 7,000 liver transplants done in the United States a year. However, there are “about 20,000 people waiting, and most of those people die,” he says.”
That’s why Teperman advocates offering the relatives of a deceased donor a thank you in the form of a monetary gift — to cover funeral expenses.
Teperman says the small gift could offer a subtle, inoffensive incentive to would-be donors and their families.
“It is time to … give a small amount of money for a funeral expense,” Teperman says, “let’s say $500 that would be given directly to funeral home for everyone who donates.”
President’s Council on Bioethics and Transplantation http://www.bioethics.gov/background/org_transplant.html
President’s council excerpt: “These proposals take different forms: some offer full or partial reimbursement of funeral expenses; some offer tax credits or rebates; some offer direct cash payment. Defenders of such compensation proposals often seek to distinguish them from organ markets: the compensation would be public, not private, and thus would represent the appreciation of the entire community rather than a private contract between parties; a compensation system would set firm limits on what could be compensated – for example, allowing reimbursement for funerals of the deceased but not payment for living donors who wish to sell one of their organs; and a compensation system for procurement would be kept separate from the system of organ allocation so as not to endanger the equity of organ allocation, whereas the right to sell ones organs in the open market might also mean giving special advantages to wealthy prospective recipients”
News Report, Buffalo News http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=285
Excerpt from Buffalo News: “…. goodwill alone has never produced enough organs to meet demand. Although organ donation increased by 10 percent over the last decade, the number of individuals in need of a transplant increased by 30 percent.That the current policy has persisted for so long is a moral outrage. Even its defenders have difficulty claiming that the policy is successful. Instead, they argue that market-based alternatives, such as compensation for organs, are unethical and deter current “gift givers.” More outrageous is the fact that supporters of the current system advocate its continuation on humanitarian grounds. What is so humanitarian about letting people continue to die while awaiting transplants, just so we can feel good about “giving”? Clearly we’re not generous enough if approximately 6,000 people die annually, while another 79,000 or so are relegated to waiting lists.
Recently, the medical community has moved closer to recommending compensation for organ donation as a remedy for the shortage. The American Society of Transplant Surgeons has already endorsed payment for cadaveric organs. And the American Medical Association’s governing house of delegates will meet in June in Chicago to vote on a pilot program that would test the effects of different motivators, including payment, for cadaveric organ donations.”
I purposely have not taken a position on the issue because I’m still researching it and trying to make my own determination. I do believe that a “Thank you” alone is not sufficient for the gift of life. Your thoughts will help me and many others including those who make the policies that govern organ donation. Please comment.