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Group Calls for Cash for Donor Organs

June 01, 2003|From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — A group wants Congress to test whether cash incentives would encourage more families to donate the organs of relatives after their deaths.

The Pittsburgh-based group wants a 1984 law prohibiting financial incentives for organ donations to be rewritten to allow a project that would award $5,000 to families who authorize a deceased relative's organs to be used for transplantation.

The unnamed coalition of surgeons, academics, religious leaders and activists sent a letter Wednesday to 40 senators and members of Congress.

"It would just greatly increase the number of organs that are donated," Harold Kyriazi, a University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist who organized the group, said Friday.

The idea for cash incentives comes at a time when leaders in the field of organ procurement are pushing for changes to reverse a trend that has seen donations remain flat in recent years.

The Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing says more than 6,000 people died last year waiting for organs. More than 80,000 people are currently awaiting transplants.

Dr. Thomas Peters, a transplant surgeon in Jacksonville, Fla., who signed the proposal, said only about half the families approached each year about donating a deceased relative's organs agree to do so.

Families often have the final say about organ donations, even if someone signs an organ donor card during life.

"Financial incentives should be studied in well-controlled and appropriately designed trials. That's all we're asking -- that this approach be given a try," Peters said.

Both United Network for Organ Sharing -- the nonprofit organization that administers the nation's organ procurement network -- and the American Medical Assn. have called for studies of financial incentives for organ donations.

But UNOS spokeswoman Anne Paschke said her organization is not prepared to back any specific project yet, believing the details need to be carefully worked out.

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