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This policy document is part of a response submitted by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' Consultation on Human Bodies in Medicine and Research.

Is there a difference between indirect compensation (such as free treatment or funeral expenses) and direct financial compensation?

There is no significant distinction between indirect and financial compensation, and the insistence that there is such a distinction is misleading.

Unfortunately, the disingenuous pretence that there is such a distinction is necessitated by the UK's compliance with European law, which specifies that 'member states shall endeavour to ensure voluntary and unpaid donations of tissues and cells', and that 'donors may receive compensation, which is strictly limited to making good the expenses and inconveniences related to the donation' ('Directive 2004/23/EC on Setting Standards of Quality and Safety for the Donation, Procurement, Testing, Processing, Preservation, Storage and Distribution of Human Tissues And Cells', European Parliament and Council, 31 March 2004).

It is difficult to establish whether or not compensation is commensurate with 'the expenses and inconveniences related to the donation', not least because diverse individuals make donations in diverse circumstances (see our answer to Question 19). Egg sharing is a means of nominally indirect compensation that has been permitted in the UK, but is open to criticism on the grounds that it is not significantly different from direct compensation. Direct compensation would be a more transparent and honest arrangement.