Relatives who donate kidneys may be paid

by TIM UTTON, Daily Mail

People who donate a kidney to a relative will be paid if controversial plans being considered by the Government are approved.

Doctors believe cash incentives could encourage more 'live' donations and cut the numbers waiting for organs.

But there are fears that this would pave the way towards legitimising organ sales, amid mounting concern over the Third World trade in live body parts.

British law currently forbids payment for the supply of organs.

But two doctors have been found guilty of involvement in the growing trade in recent weeks.

Warwickshire GP Dr Jarnail Singh was suspended for six months last week after being found guilty of encouraging the illegal trade from live donors in the Third World.

And Dr Bhagat Singh Makkar was struck off the medical register after he told an undercover journalist at his London practice that he could obtain a kidney from a live donor in exchange for a fee.

The move to pay donors is supported by one of the country's top transplant surgeons.

Professor Sir Peter Bell, vice-president-of the Royal College of Surgeons, said compensation should be offered for the trauma donors face.

'You could do a lot to encourage live donation from relatives,' he added.

'As long as it is done with proper informed consent, it is a thing to think about. Relatives giving kidneys do the best of all. You get the best results.'

Hundreds of people die in Britain each year because of the chronic shortage of transplant organs. Last year, more than 4,000 missed out on transplant operations that could have saved their lives.

But the proposal to compensate family donors came under fire yesterday.

Senior Labour MP Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, said such a move is ill-advised.

'Bringing money into the system would set a dangerous precedent and could breach the Hippocratic oath,' he added.

'Once you say it's OK for a relative to be paid for an organ, you're on slippery slope to saying it's OK to have a commercial trade in human organs.'

Conservative health spokesman Dr Liam Fox said the Government needs to tread carefully in this area.

'Commercial trading in organs raises serious moral issues,' he added. 'We cannot have such an important issue treated with Third World ethics.

'The Government must think very carefully about this.'

The Department of Health last night confirmed that ministers are considering the move as part of a review of donations practice.

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