HAREFIELD Hospital has apologised for not telling a young woman who died of cancer that they had given her the lungs of a smoker.
Jennifer Wederell suffered from cystic fibrosis and was placed on the organ donor list in 2009.
Her family was overjoyed when a donor became available in April 2011 and the transplant was a success – until a malignant mass was discovered in the lungs just 16 months later.
It was only then that a doctor mentioned that Jennifer’s new lungs had come from a middle-aged, 20-a-day smoker.
Had she known, her family believe she would have refused the transplant.
The cancer spread and Jennifer died a few weeks later at her home in Essex, aged just 27.
Jennifer’s father, Colin Grannell, says Jennifer should have been told who the lungs had come from, and been given the chance to make an informed choice.
He says she died a death ‘meant for someone else’.
In a statement, Harefield Hospital, in Hill End Road, said: “We recognise that Jennifer should have been given the opportunity to make this choice. We apologise sincerely for this oversight.”
Just under 40 per cent of lungs available for transplant come from smokers. If these organs were not used, waiting lists would increase and more patients would die without a transplant.
The hospital statement continues: “It is very rare for patients to specify that they do not wish to be considered for clinically healthy lungs from smokers.
“The risks are much higher if patients decline donor lungs from a former smoker, and decide to wait for another set of organs, which are both a match for them and from a non-smoker, to become available.”
Jennifer had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age two. Her brother, Richard, who was three years older, was also afflicted with the hereditary disease.
He died in 2005, aged 23, waiting for a lung transplant.
Jennifer’s husband has set up a Facebook group, Jennifer’s Choice, encouraging non-smokers to sign up to the organ donor register.
? To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, call 0300 123 23 23, text SAVE to 84118 or go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk.