Organ donor funerals fund suggested
Published 10/10/2011 | 22:42
Offering to pay for the funerals of organ donors might help boost the number of life-saving transplant operations, an influential ethical body has said.
The health service should consider starting a pilot scheme to gauge public opinion about possibly meeting funeral expenses for those who sign the organ donor register, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics said.
Under the proposed scheme, payment would only be offered if someone who has signed the register dies in circumstances where their organs could be donated to others.
The independent body said there are 8,000 people in the UK on the waiting list for an organ transplant waiting an average of three years for a suitable donor to become available.
Three people die every day while waiting for an organ, the council said, and paying for funerals of donors could be an ethical way of encouraging more people to sign the register.
The proposal forms part of a series of recommendations in a report by the council following an 18-month inquiry into the ethics of encouraging people to donate in a range of areas from major organs to eggs, sperm, blood, tissue and whole bodies.
Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, who headed the inquiry, 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."
The report said it opposed a "hard" opt out approach to organ donation in which organs were automatically taken unless a person had objected in their lifetime.
But it said it backed a "mandated" or "prompted" choice system where people are encouraged to make a choice about organ donation during their lifetime - provided they had an opportunity to make objections clear too.