Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lung transplant recipient receives lungs of 30-year smoker, then quickly dies


Family members of a woman who died after receiving the lungs of a 30-year smoker have filed a complaint with the British transplant office.

Twenty-eight-year-old Lyndsey Scott received the transplant to replace her own failing lungs in January 2009. In July 2009, she died of pneumonia. Upon applying for medical notes on the transplant operation, her family was shocked to learn that the lungs used had previously belonged to a person who had smoked for 30 years.

"I can honestly say [Lyndsey] would have been horrified to have known those lungs were from a smoker and quite definitely she would have refused that operation," her father Allan Scott said.

Chris Rudge, national clinical director of transplantation in the United Kingdom, said he was not familiar with the specific details of the case, but noted that lungs from a smoker may still be appropriate for transplant.

"It is nothing to do with the history of the donor, it is whether the organ is working or not, whether it is going to produce a successful transplant or not, and, in this particular case, smoking isn't the issue," he said.

"Lungs from a smoker can be working perfectly normally and be perfectly suitable for transplantation; lungs from a non-smoker can not be working and not be suitable for transplantation," Rudge said. "Surgeons have to make decisions -- about four out of every five lungs that become available for transplantation are not used because they are not working well enough."

It is important for people receiving transplants to understand that the organs they are receiving will not be "brand new," he said. At the same time, he said surgeons and patients should discuss the risks associated with any particular organ.

Joyce Robbins of Patient Concern said that Scott should have been told the history of the lungs.

"Most patients would say that they should be informed of any pertinent fact," she said. "If the family are saying that she would have refused a transplant had she known, then that is an important issue."

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