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Canadian Study: 40% Would Pay Kidney Donors

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, October 04, 2012

Researchers at the University of Calgary have found a significant public support for financial incentives for kidney donors.

An online survey was conducted with more than 2,000 members of the Canadian public, 339 health professionals, and 268 people who have or are affected by kidney disease. Forty percent of the respondents thought it was acceptable to pay living donors for kidneys, and 70 percent favored some financial compensation such as payment of funeral expenses for donors whose kidneys were harvested after death. However, few respondents favored payments to a deceased donor’s estate.

Interestingly, only 14 percent of health professionals thought it would be a good idea to pay living donors. The study, "Attitudes Toward Strategies to Increase Organ Donation: : Views of the General Public and Health Professionals,” is published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

According to a story by Lindsay Abrams in TheAtlantic.com, people who oppose payment most often said they thought "a kidney should be donated from the goodness of the heart.” At the same time, the authors concluded people might be more willing to donate if they were paid. More than half of the respondents who said they would not be living donors to a stranger indicated they’d reconsider if they were paid $10,000.

A U.S. study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center asked 342 participants whether they would be more likely to donate a kidney if they were paid differing amounts, $10,000 and $100,000. Promise of cash nearly doubled the number who said they would donate their organ to a stranger. The study was published in the March 16, 2010 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

It is illegal to buy and sell organs in the U.S. and most western countries. The issues involved are difficult, emotional, ethical and complex. The people who die awaiting transplants greatly outnumber the organs available and advocates for increasing the supply argue that a regulated market could avoid exploitation and save lives. There are periodic international and domestic scandals about a trade in human organs. And the 2002 movie "Dirty Pretty Things" directed by Stephen Frears is memorable for its dark plausibility: the story deftly depicts criminals who profit by selling the organs of poor immigrants in London. A writer in the McGill Journal of Medicine asks whether it’s time for western countries to follow the example of Iran, which has long had a government regulated and funded kidney transplant system with an independent third party association to make arrangements and pay the donors.

But a shortage of donated organs is not the only barrier to life-saving transplants. Kevin Sack in a New York Times story September 19, 2012, reports that while 4,720 people died in the U.S. last year awaiting transplants, more than 2,600 kidneys from deceased donors were discarded. Some of the kidneys were found to be unsuitable, but Sack quotes experts who believe as many as half of them could have been transplanted if the U.S. donated organ allocation system did a better job getting the right organ to the right recipient in the right amount of time. The system needs to be revised, according to these experts, to consider better matching in terms of projected life expectancies of recipients and the very tight time frame for testing, evaluation, decisions and transportation. Surgeons want to transplant kidneys within 24 to 36 hours after removal from the donor.

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