Should egg and sperm donors be rewarded with souvenir mugs and T-shirts? An independent think tank has launched a consultation to consider this and other wide-ranging ideas for increasing donations. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics will also canvass public and professional views on the consequences of allowing body tissues and organs to be openly sold and traded.
'There's a real demand for bodily material that's simply not being met. Demand significantly exceeds supply', said Dame Marilyn Strathern, professor of social anthropology at Cambridge University, who is leading the consultation working party.
Other ideas to be considered include: easing laws prohibiting the collection of eggs from dead people; helping recipients and donors to exchange thanks or tokens of appreciation; and improving technologies for saving organs and tissues from those who die outside hospital. According to Management in Practice, they will also look at 'presumed consent' systems, 'thank you' letters and certificates.
'Perhaps we should accept that we can only do so much to meet the ever increasing demand', said Professor Strathern in a Nuffield Council press release. 'We also need to think about the morality of pressing people to donate their bodily material. Offering payment or other incentives may encourage people to take risks or go against their beliefs in a way they would not have otherwise done'.
The consultation covers all donations - not just egg and sperm - including whole organs, blood, skin, corneas, bone and embryos from living and dead donors. It will also cover incentives for healthy people to enter clinical trials of new medicines. The Council's consultation period will run until 13 July and the working group's findings, including the results of the consultation, will be published as a report in the latter half of 2011.