A BRAIN-DEAD baby was “kept alive” on a ventilator so her kidneys could be donated to a woman in her 40s, according to The Sun. Doctors kept the baby’s heart beating using a ventilator so as to preserve the 4cm organs ready for the transplant in the revolutionary surgery.
It is the first time such an operation has taken place in the UK on a “beating heart” baby donor less than two-months-old following a rule change. Previously organs could only be harvested from a baby under two months if it had been certified dead by the heart stopping, due to questions as to whether babies so young could be reliably diagnosed as brain dead.
A team from St James’ University Hospital, Leeds, went to an undisclosed hospital to carry out the ground-breaking operation last year. The baby’s parents agreed to donate their child’s organs in the hope their tragedy would save another person’s life and the recipient is said to be doing well.
Rules changed last April after doctors agreed tests could confirm irreversible brain death in infants, meaning anguished parents no longer have to wait for the heart to stop. This new change will increase the number of young babies eligible to be donors, with 60 per cent of donors in other age groups “beating heart” donors.
Dr Paul Murphy, of NHS Blood and Transplant, said “beating heart” donors were usually kept on a ventilator for one to three days after brain death, while organ retrieval was arranged. He said tests mean doctors can be “absolutely certain” the child is brain dead, adding: “A patient who is brain dead, is dead.
“Organ function will be maintained, while the heart continues to beat, but the term “alive” or “dead” refers to whole bodies. Families understand this.” An NHS Blood and Transplant spokesman said: “We can confirm that there has been a donation from a baby diagnosed with brain-stem death since the guidance around the diagnosis of death in babies aged under two months old changed.”