Bit short of cash? Donate your relatives’ organs in exchange for freebie funerals
A new report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics suggests that the NHS should test the idea of paying for the funerals of organ donors to help tackle the current shortage of organs. Under such a scheme, funeral expenses would be offered as a ‘gift’ if someone who has signed the Organ Donor Register dies in circumstances where their organs can be donated to others.
Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, described this as an ethical way of encouraging more people to sign the Organ Donor Register. She said:
“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 other schemes in mind also involve some kind of reward for the donation of organs, although it is to be clear that these are gifts and NOT payment for body parts. Which it might otherwise look like, being the exchange of one thing (organs) for monetary value. Glad we’ve sorted that out then.
Currently, 18 million people – around 30% per cent of the UK population - are signed up to the Organ Donor Register, but the 8,000 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant will wait an average of three years for a suitable donor to become available and three people die every day whilst waiting for an organ. The NHS are aiming to increase donors to 25 million by 2013.
As previously stated, the Nuffield Council are not advocating paying for organs, which is a good job, as it is against the law to offer or accept payment to donate organs for the treatment of others in the UK. The Council believe this type of ‘gift’ payment is just enough to encourage donation, but not enough to undermine the inherent altruism that encourages most donees to offer to donate.
Roger Goss, of Patient Concern, disagrees: “Offering funeral expenses in return for organs may result in families leaning on sick relatives to donate because it can save thousands of pounds.” Just so long as they don’t lean on them with a pillow until they stop wriggling…
So what do you think? Would the offer of a free funeral change your behaviour as guardian of a loved one’s body parts? Would you do it anyway? Would you prefer the opt-out system of Spain and Belgium where it is assumed that people consent to donation unless they objected to this before they died, or their family objects? Surely the NHS has better things to spend its money on than in persuading people to do the right thing?