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Apology for patients given cancer

The NHS transplant service has apologised to two patients after they contracted cancer from donated kidneys.

Robert Law, 59, from Wirral, and Gillian Smart, 46, from St Helens, were both given the life-saving transplants at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. The kidneys came from the same deceased female donor and medics only learned after the transplant surgery had taken place that the woman had intravascular B-cell lymphoma.

Both Mr Law and Mrs Smart subsequently had to endure six gruelling sessions of chemotherapy after a biopsy of the transplanted kidneys revealed the same lymphoma, a cancer which affects the immune system. Mrs Smart said: "I felt devastated to learn that I had received a kidney infected with cancer. The result has been psychologically and physically draining."

The mother of two had been diabetic for 30 years and was given her transplant on November 26 2010 after a period on dialysis. Despite being told her elder sister was an "incredibly close match" for transplant, Mrs Smart was called in by surgeons to receive an organ from the deceased donor.

Four days later she was given the shattering news that the donor had lymphoma. Mrs Smart's sessions of chemotherapy have now been completed and tests show she is cancer-free, but she said the fear of a return of the disease remains.

Mr Law, who is also in remission, said the full details of how and why it happened should be revealed. He had been suffering from chronic kidney disease for five years when his surgery took place, also on November 26 2010.

His sister had been on standby as a live donor but when he was told kidney from a non-living donor had become available, he decided to spare her the strain of surgery.

Mr Law said he was assured that the donor kidney was healthy but 12 days later he was told that an autopsy had confirmed she had lymphoma. A biopsy was carried out on Mr Law's transplanted kidney, which revealed the same lymphoma and he too was forced to undergo a course of chemotherapy.

Lynda Hamlyn, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "On behalf of NHSBT, I offer our sincere and unreserved apologies to the patients for the fact that each received a donated kidney that would have been rejected by their surgeon if he had been aware of the complete donor information."

Ms Hamlyn said the cause of the mistake was "human error". She added: "I do not underestimate how traumatic this has been for those involved, but lessons have been learned through an extensive investigation and a number of changes to working practices have been implemented to help prevent any such event happening again."


From Belfast Telegraph