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Thursday, April 8, 1999 Published at 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK


UK first for liver transplant baby

Luke Bettelley with his parents David and Jill

An 18-month-old baby has become the first British person with acute liver failure to receive a transplant from a living donor.

Luke Bettelley was given just 48 hours to live before the operation.

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Because there was no suitable donor available, doctors at King's College Hospital in London asked his mother Jill if she would consider donating part of her liver.

Jill said: "It took me a matter of seconds to make the decision - I am his mother and I will do whatever I can to help him.

"I am feeling very relieved and very happy that Luke has come through this operation so well."

Liver transplants using living donors have been performed before in the UK, but only on people with chronic liver failure.

This means that the liver has not deteriorated to such a great extent and that both donor and patient have time to go through weeks of tests and counselling.

A hospital spokesman said: "The significance of this operation is that it was undertaken when the patient's liver had effectively ceased functioning."

The operation on people with acute liver failure has been performed successfully at least three times in the US and once in Germany.


Luke's transplant was performed on 5 March and he is still recovering in hospital.

King's College says he is doing as well as could be expected and may be ready for transfer to another hospital soon.

Jill Bettelley is also recovering at home in Worthing, West Sussex.

Luke's father David said: "It was very hard with Jill in the adult intensive care unit, and Luke in the paediatric intensive care unit, a case of running from either end of the hospital."

Nick Samuels, from the hospital, said: "It was a very major operation. Luke arrrived with liver failure which begins very quickly to affect other organs like the brain and heart and he could have died very quickly. Essentially we had 48 hours in which to transplant him."

People can donate up to half their liver for transplant because it can regenerate itself.

If Luke's operation proves successful, it could mean that several people with acute liver failure will be able to have their lives saved through transplants from live donors.

Doctors have raised concerns that some patients are dying because of a shortage of available organs from dead patients.

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