Despite increased budgets and efforts for identifying potential organ donors and the growth in the population, there has been no change in the number of families willing to give the organs of their loved ones for transplant, the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee was told Wednesday by Prof. Eitan Mor, head of the transplant center at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus.
Mor said there were fewer than 10 donors per million residents, and that over half of those who undergo transplants do so abroad, even though it is difficult to find organs there as well. Most of the transplants abroad take place in China, where the source of the organs is often a prisoner condemned to death, Mor said.
He added that 30 percent to 40% of those who have transplants abroad return for treatment to "repair" their operations. Mor said he fully identified with MK Avraham Ravitz, who is alive today thanks to a kidney donated by one of his sons, and who earlier in the session said individuals who donate one of their kidneys while they are alive should be compensated financially.
"This is not organ trafficking," said Ravitz, "but fair compensation for donors."
The Knesset committee, headed by Gil MK Moshe Sharoni, set up a subcommittee to speed up legislation to promote organ donation by various means.
Health Ministry deputy director-general Dr. Yitzhak Berlovich said the government's position has long been that compensation to a live donor should be only in lieu of expenses, lost work days, insurance and other harm caused by giving an organ.
Rabbi Yigal Shafran, a representative of the Chief Rabbinate, went further by saying there is "no Jewish law that prohibits taking money for doing a mitzva. If a surrogate mother receives grants for delivering a baby, it's even clearer that a live donor should. But it must be done under government supervision."
Gadi Ben-Dror, chairman of the ADI organization that encourages organ donation, said families that have donated organs of their deceased loved ones should receive significant financial compensation so that the number of donor organs would grow.
Arrangements of health funds and organizations that serve as go-betweens for transplants abroad should be supervised, said Prof. Daniel Shouval, head of the Hadassah University Medical Center's transplant center.
"Most patients who return from China come back very ill," he said.
The Israel Medical Association's (IMA) representative, attorney Gili Shilat, said the IMA opposed giving any money to live donors or organs because this constituted organ trafficking.
MKs Ran Cohen, Haim Amsalem, Avshalom Vilan and Sofa Landver all agreed that live donors should receive compensation for organs they give, but that the sum should be restricted.