Friday, 5 August 2011

Kidneys from live donors for sale in the UK? No!!

I always try to give measured opinions in this blog, but occasionally a topic crops up that leads me running, screaming from the fence. And the sale of live-donor kidneys is one of those subjects.

A researcher at the University of Dundee, Sue Rabbitt Roff, has suggested that people should be allowed to sell their kidneys for around £28,000 to provide more kidneys for the thousands of patients waiting for transplants.

No! No! No!

Ms Rabbitt, who, in my opinion is as ridiculous as her name, goes on to suggest that donors could ‘make enough money to pay for instance pay off university loans’

As I said before … No! No! No!

Dr Tony Calland, Chairman of the British Medical Association’s medical ethics committee, was measured in his response and said that organ donation ‘should be altruistic and based on clinical need.’

Writing in the Personal View section of the BMJ (British Medical Journal) website, Ms Roff proposes that the arbitrary figure of £28,000 per kidney is equivalent to the average income in the UK so she felt it wouldn’t be the poor who just sold their kidneys. Oh yeah, right, so you have no debts but would still consider selling your kidney – in which specific region of Lala land would that happen?

And she suggests that we should consider that selling your kidney is an acceptable means to pay off your student debt? There is already huge controversy surrounding student fees, with cries of ‘unlevel playing field’ and ‘university for the rich, not the poor’. So now would we add another slope in this already bumpy arena? ‘Physical fitness’?

I am fully aware of the fact that there are currently 8000 people waiting for organ transplants in the UK and supply does not meet demand. 1 in 3 kidney transplants last year used ‘living donor’ organs. Many parents, siblings, husbands and friends have all given the ultimate gift to their loved ones. Free of charge. For love. Not for money. I have huge sympathy for anyone who watches someone precious cope with the life limiting effects of regular dialysis and the ravages of kidney disease. Yes, I know that a live donor can live well with one kidney, but there are risks associated with major surgery, which would be far more distressing if not being undertaken to help a loved one. And what sort of society would encourage the mutilation of individuals to offer their organs solely because they are desperate for money?

The new initiative by the government to boost the donor register is an excellent initiative. There are now tick box questions regarding organ donation that must be completed by all online applicants for new driving licences. This is expected to significantly boost the number of donors on the UK register. This figure currently stands at 17 million, around a quarter of the population. Surely efforts are better directed towards building the transplant register for ‘non heart beating donations’?

The National Kidney Federation states on its website: ‘At present, not enough deceased kidneys are donated to meet the demand. Changes in seat belt laws and improvements in medicine mean that fewer people now die from accidents or illnesses that would have made them suitable donors’

Would Ms Roff suggest that we stop using seat belts and training our emergency healthcare teams I wonder?

To join the UK organ donor register please visit


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