Dying man to get bloodless liver swap

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The Independent Online
A DYING man who has been refused a liver transplant in his home country because of his religious beliefs is flying to Britain where surgeons have promised him a "bloodless" operation.

Euan Opperman, 19, a Jehovah's Witness from South Africa, is due to arrive later this week to await an operation at St James's University Hospital, Leeds. He has been told he needs the transplant to save his life, but says he will have surgery only if it is conducted without a blood transfusion, which would breach his religious beliefs.

Surgeons in South Africa refused to operate, saying the risk was too high. But Stephen Pollard, the British surgeon who will do the operation, said agreement had been reached with Mr Opperman's family on surgery procedures.

Although donated blood is refused by Jehovah's Witnesses, there is a grey area surrounding the use of other blood products and the recycling of the patient's own blood.

Mr Pollard, who completed a successful transplant on a Jehovah's Witness three years ago, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are happy to work within the confines set down by the patient and his family. We believe it's an issue of choice. He'll die without it and that's the starting point. We're unlikely to make things worse."

Mr Opperman's father said it was "heartening" to find a doctor willing to operate within his family's faith. He said: "We attach sacredness to blood itself. We are for medical science and we love life, but what we want is bloodless surgery."

Mr Opperman faces a wait of up to a year for a liver to become available. The pounds 70,000 cost is being met by his parents.