Transplant patients to get organs from drug addicts

DOCTORS could give transplant patients organs from “high risk” people, including cancer victims, drug addicts or those with infections, under radical NHS plans to tackle the UK’s shortage of healthy donors.

There are concerns the quality of donor organs are declining. Picture: Getty
There are concerns the quality of donor organs are declining. Picture: Getty

Health experts are proposing a special “fast-track” waiting list for high-risk organs, which would be offered to dying patients who are in desperate need of a transplant.

Experts have warned that donor organs are declining in quality, with more now coming from the elderly or from people whose lifestyle has caused them damage.

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The NHS is trying to increase the numbers of willing organ donors because so many patients are dying while waiting for transplants.

Dr Titus Augustine, director of transplantation at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “One of the things that we have been looking at is trying to match risk with risk.

“There are people on the list who are willing to take that risk, accept kidneys from people with known infection risk or cancer risk.”

There are currently 5,500 patients on the kidney transplant waiting list and hundreds of patients die each year waiting for an organ.

The proposed scheme would initially be carried out in Manchester, which has the country’s largest kidney transplant programme at the city’s royal infirmary. It would then be opened up across the UK.

Documents supporting the proposal state: “The hypothesis underpinning this project is that the potential risks of disease and mortality associated with transplanting these kidneys could be less than the mortality in some selected patients, without transplantation.

“The aims of this project are to utilise and match these kidneys from donors who are currently being turned down with a group or urgent patients at risk of mortality without transportation.”

Under the plans, patients would be given the option of going on the high-risk waiting list where they may be offered an organ from a diseased donor. They would also remain on the general waiting list.

The proposals may be considered by some as controversial following the death in Cardiff of two men who were given kidneys with a rare infection transmitted from an alcoholic donor.

The relatives of Darren Hughes, 42, and grandfather Robert Stuart, 67, say they were never told about the lifestyle of the donor by doctors at University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff.

Professor James Neuberger, associate medical director for organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “The sad truth is, not every patient waiting for a kidney transplant will get the organ they need.”

He added: “This is an exciting proposal that will also identify patients who would be willing to take organs from higher-risk donors.”

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