The British government said Friday that it plans to ban private organ transplants from dead donors to allay fears that prospective recipients can buy their way to the front of the line.
A government-commissioned report recommended that organs donated within the state-run National Health Service stay within the public health system, which provides universal care to everyone who lives in Britain. Though transplants are free, there often are be long waiting lists.
Few Britons have private transplants, so in practice the new rules will stop foreigners from coming to Britain and paying privately for a transplant.
The report by Elisabeth Buggins, former head of the Organ Donation Taskforce, was commissioned after a storm over cases in which foreigners were given transplants from dead Britons.
Several newspapers reported last year that about 50 foreign patients had received livers from British donors at two London hospitals.
The transplants were legal because the NHS has a duty to treat anyone who is in Britain. But because the foreign patients were not covered by Britain's health system, they paid a fee to the hospitals and doctors involved.
Buggins said that though the transplants were within the law, they had raised public "disquiet."
She said there was no evidence the private patients got organs more quickly than NHS patients, but conceded that "it is extremely difficult to insulate a donated organ from the taint of 'private purchase' if it is transplanted into a fee-paying patient by a surgeon who makes a financial gain, in a hospital which also makes a profit from the procedure."
Lawless writes for the Associated Press.