Plans for a life-saving network linking potential cell and tissue-donors with desperately-ill patients across the continent took a major step forward today when the European Parliament approved a British MEP’s initiative.

London Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis is proposing a raft of measures to save lives by making it easier to find donor-matches across Europe.

Her own-initiative report was overwhelmingly approved today by the European Parliament sitting in Strasbourg.

Her proposals stress the need to ensure traceability and transparency in the various donation systems across the 27 EU Member States. They also call for increased co-operation between donor systems to help better match tissues to recipients.

The report looks at the ethics of donation, rejecting the practice of paying for tissues and cells including sperm and eggs. It does, however, include proposals for the fair and adequate compensation of donors.

The report calls for more information to potential donors, including better information of new and innovative methods of donation such as giving umbilical cord blood. It also looks at ways to address the EU-wide shortage of certain tissues and cells, especially bone marrow, sperm and eggs, by promoting more voluntary donations.

Mrs Yannakoudakis told fellow-MEPs: “The shortage of certain tissues and cells is a concern to all EU Member States. Almost half of Member States admit that they regularly face grave shortages of human tissues and cells, particularly spinal marrow and tissues such as cornea and skin. “

Mrs Yannakoudakis said: “Traceability and transparency go hand-in-hand with taking measures to prevent the development of a black market in cells and tissues, particularly on the Internet.

“The potential for such a market undermines the quality and safety of tissues and cells, not to mention the associated legal and ethical problems. The human body must never be seen as a source of financial gain.

 “Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are often the only hope for people with leukaemia 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.”

Today’s vote means that the European Commission should now consider framing legislation to address the suggestions made in Mrs Yannakoudakis’ report.

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