UK: NHS to harvest babies’ organs from damaged babies

Moms will be ‘supported’ to have the baby at nine months so that the child’s vital organs can be taken for transplant


3/13/16 – (Daily Mail)  Women whose babies develop fatal defects in the early stages of pregnancy will be given advice on going ahead with the birth so the NHS can harvest their organs, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Most expectant mothers opt for termination after being told the devastating news their child has no chance of survival once born.

But now, amid a chronic shortage of donated organs, mums will be ‘supported’ to have the baby at nine months so that the child’s vital organs can be taken for transplant.

Last night the proposal sparked an ethical debate – with one critic describing it as a ‘ghoulish suggestion’ that would undermine public confidence in organ donation. 

Chart_Baby Harvesting UK

The move was revealed at a medical conference where NHS transplant surgeons said they wanted to take more organs from babies nationally to address a dire shortage.

As part of this drive, midwives and other NHS workers are to be educated about the potential for using babies’ organs in transplants.

In the past two years, only 11 babies under two months have become organ donors. But doctors believe they could raise that figure to around 100 a year.

Speaking of obtaining more organs from newborns, transplant surgeon Niaz Ahmad, of St. James’s University Hospital in Leeds, said: ‘We are looking at rolling it out as a viable source of organ transplantation nationally.

‘A number of staff in the NHS are not aware that these organs can be used. They need to be aware. These can be transplanted, they work, and they work long-term.’

One specific case medics are considering are babies diagnosed with a brain defect called anencephaly, which can be detected by routine scans as early as 12 weeks and which gives babies no chance of survival.

Under the new proposals, mothers would give birth in the normal way and once doctors had certified the infant dead, its vital organs would be removed. However, donation would not be raised when a woman was still deciding whether or not to have an abortion – and nobody would be compelled to donate their baby’s organs.

In some cases, where donation has been agreed, babies could be certified brain dead but their bodies kept alive by artificial ventilation. Surgeons could then remove organs from these so-called ‘heartbeat babies’ when they are fresh, maximising what can be used and the chance of successful transplant.

Dr Joe Brierley said: ‘We are seeing more women saying, ‘I don’t think it is right to terminate.’ It is then a case of them having conversations with NHS staff about the options.’


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