People should be allowed to sell their kidneys for £28,000 in an NHS-regulated organ market, a medical academic at Dundee University has said.
In an article in the British Medical Journal online this month, Dr Sue Rabbitt Roff called on the health service to offer financial rewards to living kidney donors to speed up NHS transplants and reduce costs.
But her proposal has led to concern in the medical community that people may jeopardize their health in order to pay off their debts.
The British Medical Association said it would not support money being offered for the purpose of live kidney donations, for which there is currently a waiting list of 725 in Scotland.
Dr Calum McKellar, Director of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, has also expressed concern at the suggestion.
“A legal, regulated market in human body parts would end up exploiting those who have very restrictive financial means, such as many students and foreigners”, he said.
Professor Neil Turner, Chairman of Kidney Research UK, said: “The decision to become a living organ donor is one which is extremely personal and should not be motivated, influenced or incentivised by the prospect of financial gain.”
He added: “The idea that you can sell one of your organs to pay off a substantial debt, such as a student loan, will undoubtedly appeal to some people”.
But Dr Roff, senior research fellow in medical sociology at Dundee University, believes it is a “small step” to move to paid-for kidney donation.
She said she had calculated her suggested fee of £28,000 based on average incomes, compensation and the cost-benefit analysis to the health service of a successful transplant.
But Tim Statham, Chief Executive of the National Kidney Foundation, said: “I think payment could actually be harmful because at the moment people do this altruistically.
“If they thought they might be perceived as doing it for payment, it could actually reduce the number of donors.”