Inquiry into use of organs donated for `whites only' rule on kidney donation

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A GOVERNMENT inquiry was launched last night into reports that a family donated the kidneys of a dead relative for transplant on the condition that they only went to a white patient.

The UK Transplant Support Service Agency is believed to have accepted a family's conditions that the kidneys could only be used if they didn't go "to a coloured". Although theagency's team of medical experts said that pre-conditions were unacceptable, its head, Robina Balderson, said it must "offer all organs" that it is asked to, and "if that entails conditions being set, then this information must be passed on". A memo was produced that stated "this organ is not allowed to anyone who is not white". It is believed the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield later transplanted the kidneys into a white person.

The number of transplants performed this year has dropped by 6 per cent and the British Medical Association was sympathetic to the plight of hospitals desperate for organ donors. "Faced with a dying patient and a matching organ [a doctor] might well feel that their overriding duty was to save the patient's life," said a BMA spokesman.

Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, said: "I was appalled when I learnt the initial details of this case ... I asked my permanent secretary to find out what happened and to ensure it never happens again."

A spokesman for the hospital said it did not condone the acceptance of organs where there are conditions attached and would cooperate fully with the investigation.

Organ transplants between people of different races are often not possible because the tissue types do not match.