A controversial website offering patients the chance to plead for kidney donations will launch in the UK today.
The US version of the Matching Donors site has matched around 250 strangers, more than twice as many as Britain’s anonymous NHS scheme, according to ITV.
Under the NHS transplant scheme, altruistic donors are not told who receives their kidney - with a medical panel deciding who needs it the most.
But the Matching Donors website allows those in need of a transplant to make online pleas to potential donors, who can then choose who they give their kidney to.
Patients upload videos of themselves to the site with their stories and reasons why they should be the ones to receive a transplant. Potential donors and patients can also message each other.
The Human Tissue Authority (HTA), the UK’s transplant watchdog, carried out a review which found the website could charge up to $595 (£376.77) for patients to sign up.
The website makes it clear that it is illegal to offer or receive payment for organs.
Paul Dooley, of Matching Donors, told ITV: “We have wanted to come to England for the longest time. We have the ability to take our system to the UK and save their lives.”
Allan Marriott-Smith, director of strategy and quality at the HTA said: “We are not yet clear how it will operate here and the legal implications, and we have not had a conversation with the charity about these issues. Once we have more information, we can advise members of the public considering the possibility of arranging a donation through this route.
“We are acutely aware that organ donation can be an emotive and sensitive subject. It is our role to make sure that living organ donors give consent to the process, and to safeguard against reward being offered or sought for a donation.
“The principle of organ donations, both from living and deceased people, being a freely given gift is the basis of the law in this area. We must give careful consideration to new developments to make sure that they are within these parameters.
“We have seen an increase in the use of social networking websites which can put potential donors in contact with people who need an organ transplant. We are constantly reviewing our approach to keep pace with such developments, to make sure they meet the legal requirements.”
The HTA said they would launch a new framework for the assessment of directed-altruistic donations on 10 September.