LONDON - Britain’s National Health Service should pay the funeral expenses of organ donors to encourage more people to register amid a shortage in organs for transplant, a think tank has said.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics said people may be more likely to sign up as donors if they knew it would spare grieving relatives the cost of a funeral, which averages £6,800 (S$13,649) in Britain.
“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,” said Marilyn Strathern, who led an 18-month inquiry by the council.
“The possibility of sparing relatives the financial burden of a funeral might encourage more people to register as donors.”
Britain has 8,000 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant and patients wait an average of three years for a suitable organ donor to become available.
Three people die every day waiting for an organ.
Around 18 million people in Britain, or 30 percent of the population, are signed up to the Organ Donor Register.
The NHS aims to increase this to 25 million by 2013. The council suggested that a pilot scheme be launched to determine the public’s view.
It looked into the ethics of encouraging people into donating in a range of areas including major organs, eggs, sperm and whole bodies.
Britain’s Department of Health said it would consider the recommendations of the report, but added that becoming an organ donor should not be motivated by money.
“Signing up to the Organ Donation Register is a selfless act that can save the lives of others. It is an independent personal decision that should befree from any financial consideration,” a spokesman said.
Kevin Gunning, a consultant at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, eastern England, said the scheme could distract people from registering as donors.
“I don’t think it’s going to have a great impact on the number of people who sign up... In Britain our tradition of altruism is that this is a gift, and we need to maintain that,” he told the BBC.
The council’s ethics report concludes that altruism should be at the centre of all types of donation, but said this does not exclude the possibility of allowing some form of payment in some circumstances.