NHS backs plans for 'high risk' organ donations

NHS backs plans for 'high risk' organ donations

Seriously ill transplant patients could be offered organs from “high risk” donors who are suffering from cancer or are drug users, under plans backed by the NHS.


A shortage of healthy organ donors means that every year hundreds of people in need of a kidney transplant either die while on the waiting list or have to be removed from the list because they become too ill.


Doctors at the Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have argued for the creation a new “fast-track” waiting list that would offer organs usually deemed to be too high risk to patients who may be at even greater risk of dying if they do not get a transplant.


Such patients may have kidney failure and can no longer be treated by dialysis.


Professor James Neuberger, associate medical director for organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, endorsed the plan.


“This is an exciting proposal that suggests that in addition to the national kidney allocation list, we will also identify patients who would be willing to take organs from higher risk donors,” he said.


“NHS Blood and Transplant would offer these organs to kidney transplant centres according to an agreed and published protocol. The transplant units then decide whether or not to accept these organs for their patients.”


Factors that result in donors being deemed high risk include “the age of the donor, the BMI of the donor or if the donor has a history of smoking, drug use or a tumour”, he said.


“The sad truth is, not every patient waiting for a kidney transplant will get the organ they need. Last year, 279 patients across the UK in need of a kidney, pancreas or kidney and pancreas transplant died while they were on the waiting list," Prof Neuberger said.


“An additional 585 patients were removed from the waiting list. This often happens when patients become too ill to receive a transplant and sadly many go on to die afterwards.”


The Manchester doctors argued that the actual risk of organs from many donors who are turned down is an “educated guess”.


Kidneys from some potential donors with infections or brain cancers are turned down due to perceived risk when in fact “the risk of transmission of the tumour in many of these malignancies is very low”, according to an application for funding to trial the scheme, seen by the Sunday Times.


A spokesman for the Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the funding request had been turned down.


Separately, it has emerged that a boy as young as 12 is feared to have been subject to a plot to smuggle him out of Britain to harvest his organs on the black market. The case is one of two that were reported to the National Crime Agency in 2013, with the second case involving a woman aged between 31 and 40.


The NCA said: “Reports were received suggesting that two UK passport holders of East African heritage were to be trafficked to Europe for the sale of body organs.” However, it added the possible cases were “uncorroborated” and “unsubstantiated”.


“There is no intelligence to suggest any trafficking of human beings to the UK for the purpose of removing organs or human tissue,” the NCA added.


Chloe Setter of child protection charity Ecpat UK told the Mail on Sunday: “We know of just a handful of cases but we suspect these are the tip of the iceberg.”





By Emily Gosden,


The Telegraph, Sunday 8 March 2015




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