Debating Matters International Final: Organ Donation - UK versus India

Saturday 30 October, 5.15pm until 6.30pm, Lecture Theatre 1

The Battle of Ideas will host the second UK v India Debating Matters Championship, a showdown between the winners of the Academy of Ideas Debating Matters Competition UK 2010 and the winners of the Debating Matters India Competition 2010.

Students from DPS Megacity, Kolkata, India and Hutton Church of England Grammar School, Preston, UK will debate the motion Financial incentives provide the best solution to the crisis of organ and tissue donation to decide winner of the UK v India Debating Matters Championship 2010.

In April 2010, the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics launched a public consultation on Human bodies in medicine and research. A key question is whether it is ethical to use financial incentives to increase donations of organs and tissue, which in most cases is currently illegal in the UK. Other options explored in the consultation include priority for the donor if they require a transplant later in life, the payment of more generous expenses and the sending of certificates or ‘thank you’ letters to the donor or donor’s family. The Nuffield consultation takes place in the context of a worldwide discussion about the shortage of human tissues and organs, and the search for more effective ways of encouraging donation is taking place in countries across the globe, from the USA, Canada and New Zealand to Israel, China and Malaysia.

Organ donation rates in India meanwhile lag behind those of other countries, with only 3,500 transplants taking place each year according to a leading medical organisation. Many commentators have spoken of a cultural ambivalence towards donation, with some pushing for national campaigns to correct widely held misconceptions, and others pushing for a policy of ‘presumed consent’. Alongside a shortage in donations however, there has been a parallel discussion on the ethics of ‘organ trade’. Although a ban on human organ sales was introduced in India more than a decade ago, a spate of high-profile scandals involving the illegal sale of organs have forced India to rethink its transplant stance. When the Ministry of Health convened a group of doctors to discuss the donation problem, their solution was to legalise paid donations.

Whilst some have raised concerns that payment for organs and tissue will exploit the poor and vulnerable, others suggest that payments motivate people to donate kidneys across income groups, and that payments do not deter people from donating altruistically. How should we approach the problem of a worldwide shortage of human tissues and organs? Should altruism remain the model for donation? Or has the time come for a re-think?

FOR: Delhi Public School Megacity, Kolkata. Teacher: Anirban Roy

AGAINST: Hutton Church of England Grammar School, Preston. Teacher: Claire Mates

Listen to session audio:


Wendy Kaminer: US-based writer on law, liberty, feminism, religion, and popular culture; author, Worst Instincts: cowardice, conformity & the ACLU

George Thomas: orthopaedic surgeon; editor, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics

Phil Mullan: economist; UK Managing Director of Easynet Global Services; author The Imaginary Time Bomb

Abhisek Ghosh
student, Delhi Public School Megacity, Kolkata

Devvart Poddar
student, Delhi Public School Megacity, Kolkata

Patrice Ellis
student, Hutton Church of England Grammar School

Adam Rawcliffe
partnerships manager, Academy of Ideas

Justine Brian
director, Debating Matters Competition

Produced by
Justine Brian director, Debating Matters Competition
Helen Birtwistle history and politics teacher, South London school
Recommended readings
Topic Guide: organ and tissue donation

'Financial incentives provide the best solution to the crisis of organ and tissue donation.'

Debating Matters, 11 October 2010

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