Pittsburgh A group wants Congress to test whether cash incentives would encourage more families to donate the organs of relatives following their deaths.
The Pittsburgh-based group wants a 1984 law prohibiting financial incentives for organ donations to be rewritten to allow a project that would award $5,000 to families who authorize a deceased relative's organs to be used for transplantation.
The unnamed coalition of transplant surgeons, academics, religious leaders and activists sent a letter Wednesday to 40 senators and members of Congress.
"It would just greatly increase the number of organs that are donated," Harold Kyriazi, a University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist who organized the group, said Friday.
The idea for cash incentives comes at a time when leaders in the field of organ procurement are pushing for changes to reverse a trend that has seen donations remain flat in recent years.
The Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing says more than 6,000 people died last year waiting for organs. More than 80,000 people are currently awaiting transplants.
Under the proposal, representatives for organ procurement agencies would approach families after a relative has been pronounced brain dead and offer the $5,000 "as a way of saying thank you for giving the gift of life." The money would go to the deceased person's estate.
Dr. Thomas Peters, a transplant surgeon in Jacksonville, Fla., who signed the proposal, said only about half the families approached each year about donating a deceased relative's organs agree to do so.