- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

The Virginia-based group that manages the nation's organ-transplant system is considering buying vital organs from the relatives of the recently deceased, as it tries to accommodate the growing demand for transplants.
"It's almost a certainty that federal law forbids what we're considering," said Anne Paschke, spokeswoman for the United Network for Organ Sharing.
With about 80,000 patients annually awaiting transplants up from about 15,000 just 10 years ago UNOS's board of directors Thursday will vote on whether to pursue legislation in Congress to study the impact of "financial and other incentives on cadaveric organ donation."
Currently, the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act, introduced in Congress by Al Gore, forbids the selling of human organs.
Despite the current program's inability to meet organ demand with its two sources, living donors with brain damage and cadavers with organ-donor cards, the program faces vocal critics within the medical profession who call the concept unethical.
"The basic concern is that putting a price on human organs leads to an open market on body parts," said Dr. Frank Riddick, former chairman of the American Medical Association's committee on ethical and judicial affairs. "Many worry that this would create a system where only the rich can afford organs.
"The demand for organs far exceeds the supply, and a pure open market would be intrinsically unfair. But the AMA decided last week that, with cadavers, it might be possible to reduce the disparity in a way that isn't coercive."
The AMA last week reversed an earlier decision opposing UNOS' plan to create and study a pay-for-organ program.
"Over 6,000 patients died in the United States last year because they couldn't get organs for transplant," said Brenda Crane, a spokeswoman for the AMA. "That's why this is an issue right now."
Some European countries currently have "presumed consent" policies that make all citizens into donors unless they say otherwise the opposite of how things work in the United States. But UNOS officials and some medical observers reject that approach, saying it would not work in the United States.
"In America, we're so concerned about personal rights that I think it would be almost impossible to garner public support for a presumed-consent policy," Mrs. Paschke said.
The resolution UNOS is debating Thursday calls on President Bush to establish a joint congressional subcommittee to suggest guidelines and monitor the implementation and evaluation of an organ-purchase program.

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