Essex

Cystic fibrosis woman died with smoker's donor lungs

Jennifer Wederell
Image caption Jennifer died in August, 16 months after receiving a donor's lungs

A 27-year-old woman with cystic fibrosis died of cancer after she was given the donor lungs of a smoker.

Jennifer Wederell, of Hawkwell, Essex, died at home in August - 16 months after the transplant at Harefield Hospital in London.

Colin Grannell said he believes his daughter would not have agreed to the transplant had she known the middle-aged donor was a heavy smoker.

The hospital has apologised for not giving her that choice.

Jennifer had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of two and by her mid-20s was using oxygen 24 hours a day.

She had been on the waiting list for a lung transplant for 18 months when in April 2011, she was told there had been a match.

Mr Grannell said the family had "lived all for that moment" for years, and thought it would help Jennifer "cheat" her condition.

She married her fiance David Wederell in September last year, but by February 2012 a malignant mass was found in her lungs.

'Should have choice'

"The shock immediately turned to anger in so far as all the risks were explained in the hour before her transplant and not once was the fact smoker's lungs would be used mentioned," said Mr Grannell.

"She was dying a death that was meant for someone else."

He has set up a Facebook group, Jennifer's Choice, to encourage non-smokers to sign up to the organ donor register.

The Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust said: "It is very rare for patients to specify that they do not wish to be considered for clinically healthy lungs from smokers.

"This is because 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.

"However, we recognise that Jennifer should have been given the opportunity to make this choice.

"We have apologised sincerely for this oversight.

"Regrettably, the number of lungs available for transplantation would fall by 40% if there was a policy of refusing those which have come from a smoker; waiting lists would increase and many more patients would die without a transplant."

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Media captionJennifer Wederell's father says his daughter's death was meant for someone else

Prof Stephen Spiro, honorary medical adviser at the British Lung Foundation said: "It's very difficult to say why the cancer developed.

"It is seriously possible that the cancer may have started in the lung before transplantation, but it was so small there was no chance of spotting it.

"Recipients of transplants are immunosuppressed, to stop the body rejecting the organ - this may have encouraged the cancer to grow. But is no one really knows- these are just theories."

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