AMA votes to promote research into payment for organ donation

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

AP Medical WriterCHICAGO (AP) -- The American Medical Association called for research Tuesday into whether financial payments would boost the nation's critical shortage of transplant organs.

The AMA's policymaking House of Delegates voted at its annual meeting to adopt the measure against the recommendation of a committee, which heard from doctors Sunday who said that such payments would be unethical and that even studying them would cheapen the value of organ donation.

Testimony that appeared to sway the delegates on Tuesday included a plea from Dr. Phil Berry Jr. of Dallas, who said he would be dead if he had not received an organ transplant 16 years ago to replace a liver ravaged by hepatitis B.

His lifesaver, a 32-year-old woman who died of a brain aneurysm, had indicated before her death that she wanted to be an organ donor.

"In a perfect world, altruism would be all that would be needed" to encourage more organ donation, Berry, 65, told the delegates. "The fact is that we're losing the battle."

In the past decade, the number of organs donated nationwide annually has remained fairly steady at around 5,000 to 6,000, while the number of people who need transplants has jumped from about 20,000 to 80,000, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Last year, about 6,000 people died while on the U.S. transplant waiting list, according to UNOS.

Federal law prohibits financial incentives for organ donation, and research on the issue could require congressional waivers.

The AMA will not fund any research under the measure, but its voice is influential in Washington and it is now on record as endorsing such studies.

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