NHS officials have emphatically denied reports suggesting that women carrying babies with fatal birth defects would be encouraged to bring the child to term so that doctors can harvest its organs.
Following discussions of ways to increase organ donations at the annual meeting of the British Transplantation Society in Glasgow, it was reported that the NHS was considering proposals that would see mothers “supported” to go ahead with the birth of children with non-survivable conditions.
Until recently, transplants were banned in children under the age of two months, but the rules were changed after it was proven that the organs of new-borns can make the difference between life and death – even for adults.
In a statement, a spokesman for NHS Blood and Transplant said parents would never be “pressured” or even approached to discuss the option of organ donation as opposed to abortion.
“NHS Blood and Transplant wants to reassure the public that we have no way of knowing about anyone who is pregnant with a baby that is unlikely to survive,” a statement read.
“The only way we would ever find out about such babies is if a pregnant woman expressed a wish to donate the baby’s organs and they were referred to us by their clinical team because they have asked for this. We will then do what we can to support the family to do what is best for them.
“Under no circumstances would NHS Blood or Transplant staff or anybody else within the NHS pressure women to continue with a pregnancy solely for the possibility of organ donation.
“When supporting any families who want to explore donating their baby’s organs we always work hard to explain that it is very rare and not always possible to go ahead with organ donation and that the process can be complex, while recognising that for some parents who face the tragedy of losing a baby organ donation can be of comfort.”
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, transplant surgeon Niaz Ahmad said the NHS was looking at options for “rolling out [new-born transplants] as a viable source of organ transplantation nationally”.
And raising the prospect of discussing the option with pregnant women directly, he was quoted as saying: “There is a real potential for using these organs [and] we are going to discuss whether it is an option, somehow, to tell women in this situation, that organ donation is an option.”