PRESS ASSOCIATION -- People should be allowed to sell their kidneys for £28,000 to tackle a shortage of donors, a researcher has suggested.
Sue Rabbitt Roff, a senior research fellow at the University of Dundee, said it is time to pilot "paid provision" of live kidneys in the UK, under "strict rules of access and equity".
She said that letting people sell the organ could help them make money to pay off university loans or simply give them the chance to do a kind deed.
The rate of donation of kidneys from the dead and living had not kept pace with the need for the organs, she said, and the figure has plateaued at about 2,000 a year in the UK.
In a Personal View article published on the British Medical Journal website, she suggested a move towards regulated paid provision for live donors' kidneys, with the organs allocated in the same "fair" way as they are now.
She wrote: "One reservation that many people express about such a proposal is that it might exploit poor people in the same way the illegal market does now.
"But if the standard payment were equivalent to the average annual income in the UK, currently about £28,000, it would be an incentive across most income levels for those who wanted to do a kind deed and make enough money to, for instance, pay off university loans."
She added: "So it's time to begin to explore how to pilot paid provision of live kidneys in the UK under strict rules of access and equity. We need to extend our thinking beyond opt-in and opt-out to looking at how we can make it possible for those who wish to do so to express their autonomy in the same way as current donors are encouraged to do by making available a healthy kidney for a fee that is not exploitative."
But Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the British Medical Association's (BMA) medical ethics committee, said organ donation should be "altruistic and based on clinical need" and that there was a "small but significant" health risk to living kidney donation.
He told the BBC: "Introducing payment could lead to donors feeling compelled to take these risks, contrary to their better judgment, because of their financial situation."