'Critical change' needed to allow babies under two months to donate organs
A CRITICAL change to medical guidelines is needed to save babies’ lives by allowing children younger than two months old to become organ donors, campaigners say.
One supporter of the proposed change is Horwich mum Carren Bell, whose daughter Lagan Katherine Anne Grant died in 2011 from a heart defect aged 16 weeks old.
She has since founded the charity Lagan’s Foundation and said this change would be critical so more parents are spared being ripped apart by the agony of losing a child.
Miss Bell said: “At the moment, doctors cannot ask parents whether they want to donate their baby’s organs which is taking the decision away from them.
“Lagan was always going to need a transplant, but we did not think she would die as quickly as she did.
“I was at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle the other day and it was heart-breaking sitting around people just waiting for help for their children.
“It is absolutely critical that we get this through and help families because it rips them apart.
“It at least gives people a choice and I am sure it will save a massive number of children’s lives a year.”
In January, The Bolton News launched a campaign to get 5,000 more people signed up to the organ donor register.
More than 100 children are currently waiting for a transplant and, for many, time is running out.
Up and down the UK, there are babies born with heart defects or organs that have not properly developed in the womb.
Tiny babies need tiny organs which can only come from very young donors.
But guidelines introduced in 1991 stop babies younger than two months old being declared brain dead, therefore stopping grieving parents giving others the gift of a child’s life.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is reviewing the science behind the guidelines and is due to report in summer 2014.
Professor James Neuberger, associate medical director for organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “With more than 100 children currently waiting for an organ transplant, many lives depend on the strength of a family agreeing to donate their child’s organs after they have died.
“Especially for young babies in need of a transplant, the size of the donated organ will be a major factor to determine whether they can have the lifesaving operation or not.
“Current national guidelines for the diagnosis of brain death do not support donation from brain dead infants under the age of two months, so we would support the review of the current guidance in the light of medical advances and increased knowledge.”
A study at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London found that many babies who died in neonatal or paediatric intensive care units over a six-year-period could have been potential donors if this guideline was removed.
An e-petition on the matter has been started. To support this visit epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/62560.
To Sign Up to Save Lives, go to the NHS organ donor register at organdonation.nhs.uk, call 0300 1232323 or text SAVE to 62323.