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The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"Wrongly accepted and wrongly passed through the system"
 real 28k

Dr Bill O'Neill
"Doctors cannot accept conditions"
 real 28k

Health minister Lord Hunt
"The last year alone we've increased number on the register by a million"
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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 12:42 GMT
Racist organ donation condemned

Dead man's kidneys and liver accepted

A hospital's decision to accept donor organs on condition they were given to a white patient has been condemned as "abhorrent" by a government investigation.

The dead man's kidneys and liver were "wrongly accepted and wrongly passed through the system", the investigation found.

A report on the incident, published on Tuesday, said that all NHS staff were receiving guidance reminding them that organs offered under racist conditions must be refused.

We want to ensure it can never happen again
Junior Health Minister Lord Hunt
The government also announced a major overhaul of transplant services in the wake of the findings, and criticism over the low level of donation in the UK.

The report concluded: "To attach any condition to a donation is unacceptable because it offends against the fundamental principle that organs are donated altruistically and should go to patients in the greatest need."

The UK Transplant Support Services Authority (UKTSSA), which co-ordinates transplants and is criticised in the report, will be renamed UK Transplant and will given new responsibilities to improve organ donation rates and become more involved in publicity drives.

UKTSSA chief executive Robina Balderson will stand down after it emerged she sent a memo to co-ordinators following the incident saying that they should accept all organs, even if conditions were imposed.


The scandal emerged after the family of an unnamed man in intensive care in Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, in July 1998 were approached and asked if it would be possible to donate his organs.

Relatives told doctors that he had said he was willing to donate his organs, but wanted them to go to a white person.

Doctors eventually accepted the condition and the man's liver and kidneys were transplanted into white patients.

The report by Chris Kelly, permanent secretary for the Department of Health, says that the Sheffield scandal was an "isolated, dreadful case".


Mr Kelly says in the report that it is "abhorrent" that organs should have been accepted on this basis and "worrying" that no-one stopped it.

His report added: "The panel consider that racist conditions are completely abhorrent as well as being unacceptable under the Race Relations Act.

"The impression gained is that almost everyone involved was concerned about what was happening but no one stopped it."

Senior management at the UKTSSA was criticised for not reacting to the incident after it happened and providing guidance to transplant co-ordinators.

organ Donated organs must not come with conditions
Department of Health officials were also rapped for not having raised the incident with the transplant authority.

In searching for suitable matches, the local co-ordinator involved breached guidelines by not informing a unit where two children with Asian sounding names were waiting for a transplant.

But the investigation found no further examples of "racist donations", and says that the people who received the organs would have received them anyway under normal protocol.

'Absolute unacceptability'

Junior Health Minister Lord Hunt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We want to ensure it can never happen again."

The Department of Health review also recommended the authority should be given central funding to help stamp out local variations in transplant services.

Britain has a poor record when it comes to transplants - 5,396 people were on a waiting list at the end of 1999, but only 2,682 operations were carried out last year.

Northern General Hospital in Sheffield said it welcomed the report as it removed "ambiguities" surrounding the issue.

Acting chief executive Phil Taylor said no disciplinary action would be taken against staff because it was believed that none of the guidelines which were in place at the time of the incident had been breached.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of health policy at the British Medical Association, welcomed the banning of conditions on donations but called for a "more radical review" of the service.

Professor Peter Bell, at the Royal College of Surgeons, added: "We don't think they have done quite enough."

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See also:
28 Jan 99 |  Health
Organ transplants 'on a knife edge'
28 Dec 98 |  Health
Doctors reconsider transplant stance
17 Feb 99 |  Health
'Force the dead to donate organs'

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