Thursday, January 28, 1999 Published at 10:26 GMT
Organ transplants 'on a knife edge'
Organ transplantation may be under threat
The future of organ transplantation is on "a knife edge" because of a shortage of specialists and donors, says a major report by surgeons.
Anyone can be an organ donor, but young people are advised to let their parents or guardians know of their decision.
At the end of 1997, there were some 4.6m registered organ donors in the UK - more than half the number doctors said are needed.
Thirty per cent of relatives of people who have died refuse to give permission for their organs to be removed.
Professor Sir Peter Morris, chairman of the Working Party, said public awareness of the need for organ donation had to be increased to achieve the necessary target of 10 million registered donors over the next two years.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that the provision of organ transplantation as a service is on a knife edge, the two major problems being an inadequate supply of organs to meet the demand and an acute shortage of transplant surgeons," he stated.
He wants organ donation after death to become "part of the culture of this country".
Transplants are now the main way of treating most forms of major organ failure, provided a donor organ is available.
The first organ transplant took place in the late 1950s. Kidney transplants became routine in the 1960s and were followed by heart and lung transplants.
Transplants are now being done on a range of organs, including the kidneys, liver, pancreas and small bowel.
The Working Party recommends:
The report says the current strategy for transplants is "piecemeal".
It wants the National Transplant Service to maintain a database of donor organs, designate transplant units, improve multi-organ retrieval, allocate organs to patients, maintain standards monitor transplant results and recruit and train transplant coordinators.
The Royal College of Surgeons is looking at whether it can offer research fellowships in transplantation to increase the numbers of doctors specialising in the field.
Its report will be sent to the Department of Health for consideration.