NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pennsylvania To Reward Organ Donors' Families

May 6, 1999

Pennsylvania is taking steps to become the first state to break the taboo against providing a financial reward for organ donations.

  • By early next year, state health officials will begin offering a stipend of about $300 to help families of organ donors cover funeral expenses.
  • In the pilot program, the money would be paid directly to funeral homes rather than relatives.
  • The project, authorized by a 1994 law, will be monitored for three years by a panel of medical ethicists to see if it results in more donations.
  • But critics warn that the practice may violate the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act -- which classifies human organs as a national resource and prohibits their sale.

Pennsylvania's announcement is reportedly generating intense controversy among transplant surgeons, organ recipients and relatives of past donors. "Society is not prepared to allow for your body to be bought and sold," says Francis L. Delmonico, medical director of the New England Organ Bank -- the nation's oldest organ procurement agency.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 56,716 people were waiting for hearts, longs, livers, pancreases and kidneys at the end of 1997. By the end of last year, the list had grown to 64,423.

Source Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Pennsylvania Set to Break Taboo on Reward for Organ Donations," New York Times, May 6, 1999.

 

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