Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Published at 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK


Families 'must be asked about organ donation'

Many childrens' lives are saved by organ transplantation

Doctors and nurses could do more to increase the availability of transplant organs for use in seriously sick children, a conference will hear on Wednesday.

Intensive care staff are being urged to ensure that the families of a dying patient are always asked whether they wish to donate organs after death.

Antony Hooker, transplant co-ordinator at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, says a donor's family can often benefit greatly from hearing that their loved one has helped to save the lives of others.

However, he says many relatives do not get this opportunity.

"Some intensive care staff believe they cannot approach relatives for organ donation because it is too distressing, but you cannot tell how somebody is feeling inside from how they are reacting on the outside.

"It is the right of the family to choose whether or not they want to donate the organs for transplantation. Donating organs can be something that is very positive because at least they have the knowledge that somebody else will not go through their situation."

More than 30 children die each year on the transplant list waiting for a suitable donor organ to become available.

Waiting list

The first national children's transplant conference in Birmingham will hear that, with a chronic shortage of available organs, it is vital that rare opportunities should not be passed over.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital runs a programme whereby donor and recipient families can meet if they so desire. Some families are now in regular contact.

[ image: Intensive care staff: A difficult situation]
Intensive care staff: A difficult situation
"Although we have a duty to protect the anonymity of the donor, their family and the recipients, our experience shows that communication between the two parties can help them to cope with the future," Mr Hooker says.

The development of organ transplantation has revolutionised the outlook for many infants and children dying of liver, kidney or cardiac failure.

However, because survival rates following transplantation have improved sharply, there has been an increased in the number of children referred for surgery, putting intense pressure on an already limited donor pool.

In 1997, 350 children aged under 18 underwent transplantation, 221 were still waiting at the end of the year and 28 had died waiting for a suitable donor.

Organs from living related donors are an option for both liver and kidney transplantation, but not for heart transplantation, or the newly established transplant of the small intestine.

A single donor can provide heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and small intestine for transplantation into as many as nine recipients.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

15 Oct 98 | Health
Bubble child saves brother

25 Sep 98 | Health
Transplants for the future

13 Aug 98 | Health
Leukaemia toddler in groundbreaking operation

02 Jul 98 | Health
Fatal cancer passed on by organ transplant

Internet Links

British Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics

British Organ Donor Society

Centre for International Child Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99