An Australian kidney specialist sparked a bitter medical ethics row Monday by calling for organ sales to be legalised to stop patients travelling overseas to buy them on the black market.
Nephrologist Gavin Carney said Australia should legalise the sale of organs, which currently carries a penalty of six months jail and a 4,400 dollar (4,092 US) fine, to help cut the bloated transplant waiting list.
Fit, young and healthy people should be allowed to peddle their kidneys for up to 50,000 dollars to save lives and money and to discourage needy patients from going to developing countries like Pakistan and India to buy blackmarket organs for up to 30,000 dollars, he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"Australians should be dissuaded from going to Third World countries to buy kidneys because such countries do not have the ethical, moral or compensatory infrastructure to make such a practice workable and appropriate," he said.
"But we can do the opposite here. Let's pay people some money for a new car or a house deposit and those waiting lists will be halved within about five years," he told the paper.
Australian kidney transplant patients currently wait for up to 10 years for a healthy organ, with more than 1,800 people on the list while only 343 kidneys were donated last year, costing health services billions of dollars.
But organ transplant groups slammed Carney's controversial suggestion that Australia legalise a practice outlawed in most of the world, saying it would be open to abuse and would leave the poor vulnerable to exploitation.
"It really focuses on the poor and people who are least able to pay for things in society. They get attracted to these types of things," Transplant Australia chief executive Chris Thomas told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Kidney Australia director Doctor Tim Matthews said the country should instead focus on getting more Australians to donate their organs.
"It's a sign of how desperate things are, and in particular how desperate some people feel, having waited for a kidney for some years without any result," he told the ABC.