What have we learnt from the Alder Hey affair?

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7301.1541/a (Published 23 June 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1541

February 2001 seems to have been average month for organ donations in Newcastle

  1. H J Curtis, senior house officer,
  2. G Parry, associate specialist (gareth.parry@nuth.northy.nhs.uk),
  3. J H Dark, professor of cardiothoracic surgery
  1. Cardiopulmonary Transplant Unit, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne NE7 7DNM
  2. North East Wales NHS Trust, Wrexham LL13 7TD
  3. Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull HU3 2KZ
  4. St Mary's Hospital, London W2 INY

    EDITOR—Bauchner and Vinci ask what we have learnt from the Alder Hey affair, in which it was found that various whole organs had been removed at necropsy from children at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool without their parents' knowledge and consent.1 This affair and its aftermath highlighted many of the controversial issues of organ removal.

    It has been suggested that the number of organs offered for transplantation has dramatically declined since the adverse publicity. The cardiopulmonary transplant unit at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne has indeed seemed uncannily quiet recently. February is always said to be a quiet month, and we have reviewed our statistics for this month over the past four years.

    In February this year we had 24 offers for heart and/or lung transplantation, which resulted in three transplants. In February 2000, 24 donations were offered, yielding seven transplants. February 1999 saw 30 offers and five transplants, and February 1998 saw 17 offers and six transplants. February 2001 therefore seems to have been an average month at this transplant unit, in keeping with the national figures discussed at the emergency transplant summit in London earlier this year. 2 3

    Although there is no strong evidence of fewer offers after the recent media interest, we hope that crisis talks led by the government will increase public awareness of the plight of the thousands of patients on the transplant waiting lists. The campaign for presumed consent, endorsed by the BMA, may go some way to address the imbalance between supply and demand.


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    Lack of information on transplant procedures is disturbing

    EDITOR—In 1959 our 10 month old daughter, Alice, became ill; she died within hours in Edinburgh Sick Children's Hospital. My husband and I requested a postmortem examination, and endocardial fibroelastosis was diagnosed. When Alice's body was cremated we assumed that all of her was there. …

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