Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

McGimpsey: I can’t alter rules on liver transplants

Northern Ireland Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has said he cannot change organ transplant rules to allow Gareth Anderson to be added to the waiting list.

Mr McGimpsey said guidelines state that he has to be alcohol free for six months before going on the organ list.

“There are not enough livers to go around and the reason behind that guidance is that to be sure that precious gift isn't destroyed by alcohol immediately after, or soon after, the transplant occurs,” he said.

“It's very much a matter for clinicians, I do not intervene, I am merely a politician.

“Northern Ireland is the lowest registration pro rata of the whole of the UK and I think one of the things we have to get across is the message that everyone should be on the organ donation register.”

There are currently nine people in Northern Ireland waiting for a new liver and all are living with the hope that they will get the potentially life-saving telephone call.

The number of people needing organ transplants in the UK is greater than the number of donor organs available.

This means there has to be a system to ensure that patients are treated equally and that donated organs are allocated in a fair and unbiased way based on the patient's need and the importance of achieving the closest possible match between donor and recipient.

All patients who are waiting for transplants are registered on the National Transplant Database.

Rules for allocating organs are determined by the medical profession in consultation with other health professionals, the Department of Health and specialist advisory groups. The blood group, age and size of both the donor and recipient are all taken into account to ensure the best possible match for each patient.

For kidney transplant patients, tissue type match is also a consideration. A review of the effects of tissue matching show that a good tissue type match with the donor is important for some patients, but less so for others.

A computer program is used to identify the best matched patient, or alternatively, the transplant unit to which the organ is to be offered.

The need for donor livers is high, so it is rarely possible to have a liver transplant as soon as it is needed.

For the nine people waiting for a transplant, that means adhering to advice from the transplant co-ordination team as they wait for an organ to become available.

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