Monday, 5 May 2008

Concern over doctor's kidney selling comments

An ACT specialist has renewed debate about how to overcome the crisis in organ donations by suggesting young healthy people be allowed to sell their kidneys.

Canberra nephrologist Gavin Carney is quoted as saying the Federal Government should allow transplants to go ahead for a fee of $50,000, but transplant organisations are strongly opposed to the move.

Selling or buying organs in Australia is illegal and carries a penalty of six months jail or fines of over $4,000.

Dr Gavin Carney, from the Canberra Hospital, says the country's donation crisis could be solved by allowing payment for transplants.

Dr Carney has told newspapers that young, fit and healthy people should be allowed to sell their kidneys for up to $50,000.

He says it would prevent sick patients from waiting years for transplants and stop them from travelling to Third World countries like Pakistan and India to buy organs, but the move has been condemned by Transplant Australia (TA)

TA chief executive officer Chris Thomas says providing a financial incentive is not the right approach and would leave poor and desperate people vulnerable.

"It really focuses on the poor and people who are least able to pay for things in society get attracted to these types of things and we reject that," he said.

"We'd also be concerned about what's going to happen in the long-term.

"If you accept the fact that poor people are going to look at these types of stories and say 'well, maybe that's for me', they're probably also more likely to suffer from lifestyle diseases later in life and may end up needing a kidney transplant themselves sometime in the future because of our increasing rates of obesity."

Black market dangers

Mr Thomas also warned of the dangers that could confront those who choose to buy black market organs in second countries.

"There are huge risks involved," he said.

"The people who are donating can have HIV, they can have hepatitis, they can have a whole range of different diseases, they may have some underlying cancer in their body.

"This type of disease can be transplanted into a healthy patient as such.

"The person returns to Australia and faces a problem that they never even anticipated.

"We do have a brilliant system in Australia, once we get the organs, once we get the donors to agree."

Kidney Health Australia (KHA), formerly known as the Kidney Foundation, is also against the proposal.

KHA medical director Dr Tim Matthews says the average wait for a kidney transplant in Australia is four years and that each week one person dies while waiting for a transplant.

"I think it's a sign of how desperate things are and in particular how desperate some people feel having waited for a kidney for some years without any result," he said.

Dr Matthews says it is unlikely selling body parts for profit would be supported by Australians.

He says a Federal Government task force has just done a review just of organ donation and made 53 recommendations.

He is optimistic Australia can do better with the current system.

"The state of South Australia has had twice the rate of organ donation than New South Wales has had over the last 10 years," he said.

"There's no reason, no essential reason why New South Wales can't match that."

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