Donation of tissues and cells should be voluntary, unpaid and – in most cases – anonymous, says a non-binding resolution adopted on Tuesday. While healthcare remains mainly a national responsibility, MEPs recommend that EU countries should cooperate better on cross-border donations. MEPs also point to the potential benefits to medicine of using stem cells from umbilical cord blood.
In the resolution drafted by Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR, UK) and adopted by 551 votes to 14, with 81 abstentions, MEPs call on all EU countries to ban financial incentives for donation and to clearly define the conditions under which financial compensation may be granted, for example to reimburse travel expenses or loss of earnings. A minority of EU countries currently have guiding principles on compensation or incentives. MEPs call on the Commission to propose legislation designed to guarantee the principle of unpaid donation.
The resolution highlights the value of bilateral agreements that help countries to meet general tissue or cell shortages or to find a donor match when they cannot do so domestically. But it says patients could benefit further if EU countries worked more closely with Eurocet, the European registry of tissues and cells.
MEPs are concerned about the emerging black market for sperm and eggs and call on EU countries to take coordinated action to tackle the associated ethical and public health risks.
Cord blood and stem cells
"Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are often the only hope for people with leukemia or other blood diseases. In multi-ethnic areas, such as my constituency of London, patients often need to look for donors abroad. Here is where we can tap into the value-added of the European Union, by sharing donor registries across the EU and saving lives", said rapporteur Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR, UK).
The report also points to the potential benefits to medicine of using stem cells. It says public and private cord blood/stem cell banks should cooperate better and Member States should provide a regulatory framework to ensure the banks operate in a highly transparent and safe way.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution