Rewarding families of deceased organ donors is an ethical minefield, especially in India

Last month, the Central government announced plans to set up a fund for families of people who have donated organs after brain stem death. The fund will support the education of children of deceased donors as well as medical expenses of other family members.

There is no doubt that many families would benefit from the kind of rewards being proposed. On the other hand, providing support that has financial value to the family of the deceased on the condition that donation is approved may be construed as payment for organs and open a Pandora’s Box. In organ donation, the lines between inducement, incentivisation and support to a donor or her family is very thin. India has an unfortunate history of rich people, including foreigners, inducing poor Indians to sell their organs. In spite of the punishments, such rackets are still being exposed.