British kidney donors select their own recipient through controversial website

On Friday a controversial US website is launching in the UK which allows patients to plead directly for a kidney donor online. The site's creators hope it will persuade more people to donate as they get to choose who receives their organs.

Operation involving a donated kidney
Operation involving a donated kidney Credit: Tonight/ITV1
  • Using the NHS patients have no say who receives their kidney which is secretly delivered to the person most in need
  • Doctors say most of us could donate one of our two kidneys and live a normal life
  • But less than 120 of us have done that on the NHS for strangers
  • By contrast, in America, hundreds more people are coming forward by being able to pick who gets their kidney after watching their personal appeals online
  • Some people in Britain have been giving their kidneys away to Americans because they want to choose who gets their 'gift of life'

The current American version of the website contains videos of patients pleading for a donor. In this clip taken from the Tonight programme Julie Etchingham asks if it is a "cruel X Factor for the very sick".

On Friday, MatchingDonors launch their website in the UK. The charity, which is based in Boston in the United States, has matched around 250 strangers. That's twice the number achieved by the entire NHS and its anonymous scheme. The website's creators remind any one using the site itis illegal in both Britainand Americato buy or sell organs.

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... We currently have over 11,000 willing altruistic donors listed to donate and we have a little over 700 people looking.

– PAUL DOOLEY, MATCHINGDONORS

Unwilling to give to the anonymous NHS system, Britain risks losing Aimee McCalister's kidney donation to America.

Aimee McCalister
Aimee McCalister Credit: Tonight/ITV1

It's just nice to put a face, a family story about the transplant, and who you are going to be helping... A lot of people said they thought kidney disease was about alcoholism which it's not. It's good to see they have been really good and lived a good life.

– Aimee McCalister

In Ramsgate, Rebecca Rogers has also signed up to Matching Donors.

Rebecca Rogers
Rebecca Rogers Credit: Tonight/ITV1

With the American system you're personal and bonding with them. I like knowing who I am going to give my kidney to. You don't get that in the UK. You just go to the hospital and they expect you to give it up like that.

– Rebecca Rogers

However, speaking to Julie Etchingham, the NHS defended the way it deals with transplants and said anonymity was vital.

In Berkshire, Di Franks donated a kidney into the NHS scheme. She now runs the charity Living Kidney Donation. She gave the following interview while watching one of the US kidney appeal videos.

I can't watch that! It's emotional coercion. They are playing on the very people who are generous. People's heart strings are being given a twang... Somewhere there will be some poor person hooked up to a dialysis machine that isn't strong enough to play a guitar, let alone sing - who is in real desperate need of a kidney and can't get one... They just wait on the list while others jump the queue because they have got the brass to play a guitar and advertise.

– DI FRANKS

You can get more information about organ donation from the following websites:

Tonight: The Kindness of Strangers ITV1, Thursday 7:30pm