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Human Tissue Authority statement on matching donors website
Issue date: 30 August 2012
Allan Marriott-Smith, Director of Strategy and Quality at the HTA said: “The HTA is aware of the launch of the matching donors website in the UK. We are not yet clear how it will operate here and the legal implications, and we have not had a conversation with the charity about these issues. Once we have more information, we can advise members of the public considering the possibility of arranging a donation through this route. Our initial review suggests that the UK site, like the US one, charges up to $595 for organ recipients to register. The US site does not appear to provide information on how many successful organ donations have taken place after the ‘matching’ process. This is something that potential recipients may want to know in order to make an informed choice.
“A successful organ transplant can dramatically improve the quality of life for the recipient. We are acutely aware that organ donation can also be an emotive and sensitive subject. It is our role to make sure that living organ donors give consent to the process, and to safeguard against reward being offered or sought for a donation. The principle of organ donations, both from living and deceased people, being a freely given gift is the basis of the law in this area. We must give careful consideration to new developments to make sure that they are within these parameters.
“We have seen an increase in the use of social networking websites which can put potential donors in contact with people who need an organ transplant. We are constantly reviewing our approach to keep pace with such developments, to make sure they meet the legal requirements . The HTA’s independent check is in place to reassure everyone that no reward has been or will be given for the donation; and the donor has given consent to the removal of their organ. If these two criteria are met, the transplant can go ahead legally.
“In the UK, a living donor can only donate an organ if they volunteer to do so and will not receive any payment or reward for their organ. It is the HTA’s legal duty to make sure that no reward is given, received, offered or sought for the supply of an organ.”
Notes to Editors
- The HTA is responsible for ensuring that organ donations have valid consent and that no reward is given, received, offered or sought for the supply of an organ. We do this for every living organ donation, and we assessed more than 1200 cases in 2011/12.
- Since we started assessing living organ donations in 2006, there has been a significant rise in the number of people choosing to become non-directed altruistic donors, which means that they donate a kidney to a stranger whose identity they will not be aware of at the time of donation, and may never become aware of.
- More recently, we have become aware of potential donors who have identified – perhaps through a specialist matching website or social media site – the person they wish to donate to. These cases are called directed-altruistic donations. These donors and recipients tend not to have a pre-existing relationship, so further investigations may be required before we can be satisfied that no reward is changing hands, and that any specialist matching website or potential broker, operates within UK law.
- As this is an emerging area, we are launching a new framework for the assessment of directed-altruistic donations on 10 September. In the interim, we issued guidance to transplant units to say that we would consider any applications for approval of directed-altruistic donation on a case-by-case basis.
- The HTA does not comment on specific cases in order to maintain confidentiality, and ensure that no future decision is prejudiced.
For further information please call 020 7269 1912.