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Donation of bodily material for medicine and research

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 26 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6839
  1. Christina W Strong, principal1,
  2. Teresa Shafer, executive vice president and chief operating officer2
  1. 1Law Office of Christina W Strong, Belle Mead, NJ 08502, USA
  2. 2LifeGift Organ Donation Center, 1701 River Run, Fort Worth, TX 76107, USA
  1. xtina{at}

New report builds strong foundation for financial incentives but messages are contradictory

The report published by the Nuffield Bioethics Council on 10 October tackles the difficult question of how far society can go in its demands on people to act in what many regard as a good cause—that of providing bodily material to benefit others.1 The report encompasses every source and lawful use of human bodily material. Furthermore, it contemplates each possible transaction, from purchase and sale, to gift, and several hybrid transfers in between. The council’s investigation of factors that unite and distinguish each transaction allows the meaning and ethical value of each type of donation to be considered. Its main conclusion, that systems based on altruism are not mutually exclusive from those that might allow payment, seems a sensible way of increasing the donor pool, particularly if a pilot project on payments to donor families for the cost of funerals is adopted. However, other conclusions are less well supported by ethical analysis and explication and require further attention.

The United Kingdom and the United States prohibit the sale of transplantable organs and tissue.2 3 The report exposes the ethical root of these laws, presenting a “ladder” of actions that facilitate …

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