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Ethics briefings
  1. Martin Davies,
  2. Sophie Brannan,
  3. Eleanor Chrispin,
  4. Samuel Mason,
  5. Rebecca Mussell,
  6. Julian Sheather,
  7. Ann Sommerville
  1. British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Martin Davies, British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP, UK; mdavies{at}

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Update on donation of bodily material in the UK

In March 2010, the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) announced that the first pooled kidney transplants, each involving three living donors and three recipients, had been performed in the UK.1 While the vast majority of living donor transplants take place between people who are genetically related or are otherwise emotionally close, the Human Tissue Act 2004 introduced greater flexibility, permitting, for example, altruistic, paired and pooled donation. The HTA commented that these types of donation represent one in three of all kidney transplants in the UK.

Under the system of paired and pooled donation, in which someone needs a donor organ and has a friend or relative willing to donate, but the two are not compatible with each other, they can pair up with one or more other incompatible donor and recipient pairs in an organ exchange. In paired donation, donor A gives an organ to recipient B and donor B gives to recipient A; in pooled donation, more than two donor–recipient pairs take part in an organ exchange, coordinated by the HTA (so, for example, donor A's kidney goes to recipient B, donor B's kidney goes to recipient C and donor C's kidney goes to recipient A). Under the human tissue legislation, all cases of paired and pooled donation need to be considered by an independent assessor and approved by a panel of at least three members of the HTA, to ensure that all parties fully understand the risks involved and the donors are not under any pressure to donate.

The first pooled transplant took place late in 2009, and was followed shortly afterwards by a second. Several paired living kidney transplants, involving two couples, had already taken place, however, with 16 such transplants going ahead between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009.

Also in March 2010, a …

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