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Royal Free under fire over organ donation

PUBLISHED: 12:53 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:46 07 September 2010

THE Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead has been slammed for its part in giving organs from British donors to overseas patients. Four livers have been transplanted to foreign nationals at the Pond Street hospital in the past year, at a time when a record 8,0

THE Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead has been slammed for its part in giving organs from British donors to overseas patients.

Four livers have been transplanted to foreign nationals at the Pond Street hospital in the past year, at a time when a record 8,000 Britons languish on organ transplant lists with many dying because of a lack of donors.

The hospital has defended the operations, which it says comply with guidelines set out by the Department of Health and the European Union whereby organs are allocated based on clinical need rather than nationality.

As someone who became a kidney transplant patient at the Royal Free in 2005, Neil Woodnick, vice chairman of the Camden Local Involvement Network, knows the value of receiving a life-saving transplant. He was appalled by the revelation and said: "It's outrageous. With such a shortage of organs in this country it's unbelievable.

"If it is the case that the organ will not match anyone else and will otherwise go to waste then that's a different matter, but if not, it is simply unacceptable."

It is estimated as many as around 300 British people are currently waiting for a liver and leading British transplant surgeons and patient groups have now called for an end to the practice of giving foreign nationals priority.

British Liver Trust spokeswoman Imogen Shillito said: "There are only a limited number of livers available and not enough to meet demand. As a result, we are not in favour of non-UK resident patients being offered livers that could benefit UK residents."

As many as 40 patients from Greece and Cyprus received liver transplants in UK hospitals last year, including at the Royal Free, paid for by their governments.

The Hampstead hospital has defended its action. A spokeswoman said: "All EU citizens are entitled to receive care, which includes access to organ donations, on an equal basis.

"There is currently a shortage of donor organs in Greece and patients from Greece are also travelling to other European countries, including Germany, France and Italy for transplant operations.

"A similar situation existed some years ago in Italy. The process is reciprocal between countries and this means that UK residents can travel to other EU countries for transplantation should the need arise in the future.


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