EUR researcher: 'Allow reward for organ donation'

Countries with long waiting lists for transplantations, such as the US, should experiment with allowing rewards for donating kidneys. That’s what Erasmus researcher Frederike Ambagtsheer concludes in her dissertation on organ trafficking.

Since it is usually poor, vulnerable people who choose to sell an organ, it would affect human dignity. Therefore the trade in organs has been forbidden since 1987. But prohibiting trade in organs doesn’t really work. The illegal selling of kidneys worldwide leads to higher prices, as well as to poor care for patients and donors afterwards. ‘I think,’ Ambagtsheer recently stated in newspaper de Volkskrant, ‘it’s quite paternalistic to say: you’re too poor, you can’t sell your kidney. Organ trafficking may be immoral, but it’s also immoral to have people on the waiting list dying.’

Why immoral?

For that reason the criminologist and international lawyer, working as an academic researcher at Erasmus MC, believes government should allow for a regulated reward system, such as tax advantages, free insurance or money in exchange for a donated organ. Assistant professor in Clinical Ethics at Erasmus MC Erwin Kompanje reacts to Ambagtsheer’s recommendation in the same article: ‘I’ve never really understood why poor people can’t sell their kidneys. If they want to make money that way, so what? It’s a reward for something special. If someone donates with an altruistic motive we all think it’s great, but if they ask money it’s suddenly immoral. And it is only rich people that say that, by the way.’

Read more in this article or read the full interview with Ambagtsheer (in Dutch).