Research egg donors should be paid

October 19, 2011 at 11:31 AM

A working party looking into ethical issues of human donation has recently published its report. The Nuffield Centre of Bioethics report: Human bodies: donation for medicine and research explored various aspects of human tissue donation. BSMS Professor of Biomedical and Clincial Ethics Bobbie Farsides was a member of the working party.

On egg and sperm donation, they concluded that lost earnings should be fully reimbursed for those donating eggs or sperm for others’ treatment, so that they are not left out of pocket. Women who donate eggs for research, like healthy volunteers in clinical trials, undergo medical procedures that involve discomfort, inconvenience and potential risks to their health, in order to contribute to the common good of research. They suggest the introduction of a pilot scheme offering payment to those who are prepared to donate eggs for research purposes:“We think that it’s only fair for their contribution to be properly recognised,” said Professor Farsides.

On organ donation, the working party concluded that living organ donors should not receive payment other than the direct reimbursement of costs incurred by being a donor. They suggest the introduction of a pilot scheme in which the NHS would meet funeral expenses for those who sign the Organ Donor Register and subsequently die in circumstances where they could become organ donors. Mandated choice and prompted choice systems (which should include the option of saying ‘no’) are ethical options for seeking advance authorisation for deceased organ donations.

"There will always be uncertainty about what the person really wanted with an opt-out system", says Prof Farsides "The absence of a request to opt out could be a sign of the donor being confused or misinformed about the process, rather than a willingness to donate".


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