Other options are to allow tokens of gratitude to be paid to donors, increase the expenses allowable, or consider limited sale of materials under strict regulations.

Other ways to increase donation would be to use the eggs of women who have died, establish a method for retrieving organs from people who die outside hospital or move to an opt out system, where consent for donation is automatic unless the patient has registered their objections.

The report comes after it was revealed a blunder in recording the wishes of people on the organ donor register may have led to some people having organs removed that they had not wished to donate.

The families involved have been written to and around 400,000 other people, who registered on the donor register through the driving licence application, will have their records checked.

It was feared the fiasco could lead to a collapse in the organ donor register and transplantation in general.

The demand for organs for surgery and eggs and sperm for fertility treatment exceeds demand in Britain and is driving desperate patients abroad where there are different restrictions or black markets.

Prof Dame Marilyn Strathern, chairman of the inquiry, said: “We could try to increase the number of organ donors by proving stronger incentives, such as cash, paying funeral costs or priority for an organ in future, but would this be ethical?

“We also need to think about the morality of pressing people to donate their bodily material. Offering payment or other incentives may encourage people to take risks or go against their beliefs in a way they would not have otherwise done.”

Joyce Robins, co-director of the campaigning group Patient Concern said: “The idea of paying living donors for organs is abhorrent as this would be tempting the poor to risk their lives.

“Offers of payment to the family of someone who has just died could tempt them to go against the wishes of their loved ones at a time when they are most vulnerable.”

There are currently around 8,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in Britain along with demand for 1200 more egg donors and 500 more sperm donors.

The consultation will consider all kinds of donation and both during life and after death.

The closing date for submissions is July 13th and the report can be found at www.nuffieldbioethics.org/bodies

A report on the findings will be published next year.

  • Debate2010: How can we increase the number of organ donors?