The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) is today issuing a warning to members of the public to be careful when registering to become an organ donor with services other than the Organ Donor Register. For the best chance of becoming an organ donor, sign up at www.organdonation.nhs.uk.
The HTA has been made aware of an organisation called Organ Tree Ltd, offering a service that claims to help match potential organ donors and recipients and encouraging recipients and donor families to reach financial arrangements.
In its role as the regulator of organ donation, the HTA wishes to set out the legal position on registering to become an organ donor with services other than the Organ Donor Register.
There are two reasons why the HTA would caution against registering on this, or any other website offering similar services:
- If an individual were to register with Organ Tree Ltd, or any other service operating on a similar basis, or enter into any financial arrangement associated with organ donation, they are likely to be breaking the law, which prohibits almost all payment and attempts to seek payment.
- Organ Tree Ltd is not linked to the national UK organ donation and transplantation system and therefore cannot provide any binding guarantee that your wishes with regard to organ donation will be met. In particular, established practice in the UK does not allow deceased organ donors to choose who their organs should be given to - this is decided on the basis of clinical need.
We would urge anyone considering signing up to this, or any other service which claims to be able to match donors and recipients, to be cautious and if in doubt take their own legal advice. The HTA would advise members of the public to contact us if they discover similar services.
Thousands of people benefit from organ donation each year, so it is critical that people have confidence in the organ donation system.
At present the system in place in England and Northern Ireland (Scotland’s system differs slightly) requires the consent of the donor, or a family member or friend, for organ donation to proceed. In Wales consent can also be deemed unless a person has made a decision in regard to organ donation. All three organ donation laws in the UK do not require would-be donors to give their consent in any particular way, but if organ donation is a possibility after someone has died, the NHS Organ Donor Register (www.organdonation.nhs.uk) will always be checked (if you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales the following websites feed into the ODR - www.organdonationscotland.org/, www.organdonationni.info, www.organdonationwales.org). By signing-up to these registers and sharing your wishes with your family, you are giving yourself the best chance to becoming a donor.
The HTA issues this statement to highlight the risks associated with other services, and to help ensure that donated organs are used safely, ethically, and with the proper consent.
Allan Marriott-Smith, Chief Executive of the Human Tissue Authority, said:
As the regulator, the HTA’s role is to make sure donors give appropriate consent for the donation of organs for transplantation. Consent must be freely given.
We understand the anxiety of those waiting for an organ transplant in the UK. We are constantly impressed by the incredible generosity of those willing to donate organs to save the life of another person. Signing-up to the NHS Organ Donor Register is how you can record your decision about donating organs and tissue after death.
Anyone in the UK signing up to an alternative service, where payment linked to donation is a possibility, is at risk of committing a criminal offence. You can be prosecuted for offering or receiving a reward in return for a donated organ, whether or not a transplant goes ahead.
If members of the public have concerns about alternative organ donation websites, please contact the HTA. We are also happy to answer any other questions about organ donation or the use of human tissue in general.
Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said:
NHS Blood and Transplant has been made aware of a web based business, Organ Tree Ltd, offering payment for deceased organ donation. We have absolutely no association with this business.
NHS Blood and Transplant is the organ donation organisation for the UK and we are responsible for matching and allocating donated organs. We wish to make it clear that deceased organ donation in the UK is an altruistic act. Giving or receiving payment or reward for organ donation is illegal.
Contact us: call on 020 7269 1900 or visit www.hta.gov.uk/make_an_enquiry
Find out more about organ donation: www.hta.gov.uk/guidance-public/deceased-organ-donation
NHS Organ Donor Register
Organ removal, transportation, and transplantation (i.e. the operation) need to take place in a timely way. For this reason, we have a national system for deceased organ donation and transplantation, overseen by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). NHSBT manage the National Transplant Database and the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR). They hold the details of all donors and patients in need of a transplant. NHSBT are also responsible for matching and allocating donated organs in a fair and unbiased way, and transporting organs to patients.
The Human Tissue Authority was created by the Human Tissue Act 2004.
Section 32(1) of the Human Tissue Act 2004 prohibits reward being given, offered or sought in exchange for an organ for transplantation.
The HTA works closely with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which runs the Organ Donor Register, to ensure that organ donation takes place legally.
For information - a person committing an offence under section 32(1) of the Human Tissue Act shall be liable-
On summary conviction –
- To imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or
- To a fine not exceeding the statutory minimum, or
- To both.
On conviction on indictment- -
- To imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, or
- To a fine, or
- To both.