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The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"There has been a national downturn in the number of organs becoming available for transplant"
 real 56k

Saturday, 3 February, 2001, 19:40 GMT
Organs scandal backlash fear
Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool
Alder Hey scandal's shadow hangs over donations
Transplant experts fear that the Alder Hey body parts scandal could lead to a drop in the number of organ donors.

UK Transplant, the NHS group which runs the country's transplant programme, said bereaved parents could be put off giving consent for donations.

Two leading transplant centres, The Royal Brompton Hospital and Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth, have not carried out a single transplant in 10 days.

People do not trust anybody in the NHS any more, so our co-ordinators will have to work harder to show them nothing awful will happen to their children

Sue Sutherland
Chief executive UK Transplant
Surgeons and transplant administrators are keen to stress the difference between post-mortems and the intricate and thorough consent and consultation process involved in organ donation.

Bethany Salmon is just 15 months old and for the last five months has been waiting for a new liver and bowel.

Her mother, on the verge of tears, told the BBC that she feared the Alder Hey scandal might close the door on her daughter's last chance.

"I feel sorry for the people it concerns but it's also done such a lot of damage.

"I really think we're going to run out of time."

Backlash fear

Transplant surgeon John Buckels of the Queen Elizabeth in Birmingham is convinced organ donations are "significantly down".

"I believe and other colleagues believe that this is as a direct result of the publicity from Alder Hey."

The concern comes after pathologist Dick van Velzen, who hoarded thousands of children's organs at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, was suspended on Friday by the General Medical Council.

Sue Sutherland, chief executive of UK Transplant, said: "There is no doubt we are concerned that Alder Hey may have a negative effect on people's willingness to donate.

Prof Magdi Yacoub
Eminent surgeon Magdi Yacoub is concerned
"I think we are right to be worried. There is definitely a potential for people to be confused about the issue.

"People get organ donations muddled up with tissue being put away in bottles and everything like that.

"But I have no evidence at the moment to suggest that there has actually been a drop.

"In fact this has been a bumper month despite what has gone on, with 74 donors leading to 220 transplants."

No trusts

Ms Sutherland added that UK Transplant had to restore people's confidence in the integrity of the transplant process.

"People do not trust anybody in the NHS any more, so our co-ordinators will have to work harder to show them nothing awful will happen to their children.

"If you donate organs you are making the difference between life and death."

The public must be terrified that we are just taking bits out of people willy nilly, for our own benefit - we are not doing that

Michael Bewick
Renal transplant surgeon

Mr Michael Bewick, a renal transplant surgeon at St George's Hospital, in Tooting, south London, said he had heard reports of patients tearing their donor cards up.

"The public must be terrified that we are just taking bits out of people willy nilly, for our own benefit. We are not doing that," he said.

The BBC has learned of at least two babies currently waiting for organ donations who have been told there are none available.

Negative publicity

Cathy Proctor and husband Mark are waiting for a heart for their baby, who has a congenital heart problem and will be born in three weeks.

But Mr Proctor thinks the negative publicity of Alder Hey means that they might never get the heart their baby will need.

"It is such negative publicity to donorship that I don't think anyone is going to be too willing to say yes, you can donate something without worrying that more will be taken.

"I would feel the same," he said.

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