A senior surgeon broke NHS guidelines by transplanting part of a donated liver into a private overseas patient instead of saving it for someone on Britain’s waiting list.
Professor Nigel Heaton, head of the transplant unit at King’s College Hospital in London, transplanted part of the liver into a boy from one of the Gulf states.
The surgeon was the subject of a formal investigation after other doctors said that a child on the NHS organ waiting list should have been given priority. National guidelines state that, because of the acute shortage of donor organs in Britain, livers must be offered to all other NHS centres before they can be given to a patient from outside the EU.
There are about 400 NHS patients on the liver transplant waiting list – 20 per cent of whom will die before a suitable organ can be found.
The incident sparked fury among surgeons at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, which first received the liver from a 40-year-old donor. After instructions from UK Transplant, which co-ordinates NHS transplant services, the Leeds surgeons sent the liver to King’s for a ‘super-urgent’ adult NHS patient on the understanding that it was to be used solely for that person.
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