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Financial compensation reduces organ shortage

A new thesis shows that financial compensation to the relatives of deceased donors could reduce the shortage of organs in Sweden.

Faisal Omar“It’s not enough to appeal to people’s desire to do good in order to meet Sweden’s need for organs for transplants. Getting appreciation from those around you and economic compensation for what you do are other important driving forces behind organ donation that we should also pay attention to,” says Faisal Omar, who has just received his doctorate in Health and Society on ethical challenges related to kidney transplants.

In the thesis, Omar discusses the possibility of providing relatives with economic compensation in the event of death, if the organs of the deceased are donated. The compensation should be around SEK 50,000 and primarily used to cover funeral costs, but it could also go to charity. In that case, the grant will be made public knowledge.

In Sweden there is a great shortage of organs. In 2010, 32 people died waiting for a transplant; the approximately 750 people who are now on the waiting list depend on costly health care. Every organ donation relieves human suffering and entails huge savings in health care.

“All other partners in a transplant get some form of compensation. Doctors and hospitals are compensated financially, and the person who receives an organ donation gets a new life. But the organ donors get no compensation at all, and that’s not right,” Omar says.

The thesis also compares how transplant centres in Sweden and Ontario, Canada make decisions regarding who gets on the waiting list and how donated organs are distributed. Omar argues that there is a risk of Swedish patients not being treated equally, since Sweden’s four transplant centres do not have common guidelines.

Another weakness in the Swedish system is that decisions often rest on individual surgeons. It could be compared with transplant centres in the US and Europe, which make use of computerised estimations with the help of algorithms to produce a basis for a decision.

“Sweden could learn from Ontario, which has several transplant centres, but they work according to common guidelines. The transplants are decided on in concert with a multi-professional team, where different medical specialities, transplant coordinators, nurses, and others are represented.”

Omar defended his thesis on September 29, 2011 and it is entitled Just Waiting. Ethical Challenges in Priority Setting Posed by Organ Scarcity in Kidney Transplantation.

Text: Birgitta Weibull



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Last updated: 2014-01-09