Heart swap was morally wrong, says mother

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The Independent Online
The mother of a boy who suffered crippling brain damage after a heart transplant operation told the High Court in London yesterday that she had deep-seated spiritual objections to organ transplantation.

Matthew Poynter, 10, suffered severe brain damage during the operation at Harefield hospital in west London nearly 10 years ago. His mother, Linda Poynter, told the court: "Just because we can do something, it doesn't mean it is right to do it, especially in the medical field ... when they cloned a sheep, there was outrage."

Mrs Poynter, and her husband, Kevin, who live in Bedfordshire, are suing Hillingdon Health Authority for damages, claiming doctors failed to warn them of the brain damage risk.

Mrs Poynter, who accuses the hospital of "bullying" her and her husband, an osteopath, into consenting to the transplant despite their spiritual objections, agreed she would have been "delighted" if the operation had gone well. "But I would still feel uneasy in myself. Transplants are wrong. This is something I feel deeply inside," she said.

The health authority says the risk of major brain damage was so small - less than one per cent - that it had no legal duty to give a warning and that, in any event, a warning was given in this case.

Matthew's new heart, transplanted by Sir Magdi Yacoub in December 1987, is still healthy, but the brain damage he sustained while being prepared for the operation has left him totally crippled.

Mrs Poynter agreed with Philip Havers QC, for the health authority, that she eventually overcame her objections.

"I couldn't find a reason to say no," she said. "I wanted to say no, but the decision was for Matthew." But had she been told of the brain damage risk - even a one per cent risk - she would have refused consent.

Mr Havers asked how it could have been in her son's interests to deny him the chance of several years of life. Mrs Poynter replied: "I did not believe Matthew had that very good chance. He was a very sick boy." The case continues.