High risk donors being used for organ transplants

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A leading transplant expert has stated that more than 25% of organ transplants done during the past year were from ‘high risk’ donors.

Most of the donors are aged 71 and over, but some of the other high risk donors include drug users and cancer patients.

A surgeon apologised last month after the deaths of Darren Hughes and Robert Stuart, who had both been provided with diseased kidneys, infested with parasitic worms.

The public concern regarding this case has pushed the president of the British Transplantation Society, Professor Anthony Warrens, to issue a warning that if patients decline organs where there is increased risk or the cause of death is unknown, needless deaths may be the result.

He said it is a concerning issue and it people do not accept organs or are concerned about the donation of organs of a relative due to this problem, then more people will die needlessly. He added that people have to gain perspective on the issue or it will result in them declining an organ.

It has been confirmed by NHS Blood and Transplant that during last year 25% of donated organs were taken from donors with a history of tumours, drug abuse, or people aged 70 and over.

According to the guidelines, patients should be offered detailed information if the donated organ offered to them is high risk.

According to Professor Warrens, the deaths of the two patients, who died three weeks after undergoing the transplants, was incredibly rare. He said most people who have received an organ such as this would not have been at risk. He added that the chance of dying without undergoing the transplant is much higher than dying due to the transplant.

Professor Warrens stated that three people die daily within the UK due to lack of an organ.

An inquest into the deaths of Darren Hughes and Robert Stuart revealed that they died after undergoing surgery at University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. The kidneys they were provided with had been rejected as ‘unfit’ by other hospitals. Darren Hughes, aged 42, of Bridgend and Robert Stuart, aged 67, of Cardiff, both died after receiving kidneys which were infected with parasitic worms which cause meningitis.

According to the Coroner’s Court in Cardiff, doctors were aware that the donor had died from meningitis prior to accepting the organs. However, no post mortem had been done on the unnamed donor prior to his organs being offered to transplant patients.

Image Credit: Alan Turkus

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