Patient is given meningitis man's liver meningitis sufferer

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The Independent Online
DOCTORS TRANSPLANTED the liver of a man who had meningitis into another patient, a hospital confirmed yesterday.

But a spokesman for the National Health Service said both the donor's body and the recipient had been treated with antibiotics and the second patient, who has not been named, faces no more risk than normal in a transplant.

Christian Dumbell, of St Helens, Merseyside, died at the Countess of Chester Hospital on Wednesday from what appeared to be a drugs overdose. The coroner and the man's family gave permission for his organs to be released for transplant and the Transplant Service was informed of the organs' availability. However, a post-mortem examination of Mr Dumbell raised the suspicion that he had also been suffering from meningitis.

A spokesman for the North West Regional Health Authority said the Transplant Service was informed and a stop was put on use of the organs. However, the liver had already been given to a patient suffering from a life-threatening condition. After the operation, the organ's recipient was treated with high-dose broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Hugh Lamont, head of communications for the NHS in the North-west, said: "We have established the facts and come to the conclusion the Countess of Chester acted correctly in releasing organs to the Transplant Service. They then did the right thing by treating the organ with antibiotics. All the indications are the patient has faced no more risk than normal and is making good progress."

Mr Lamont stressed Mr Dumbell showed no sign of meningitis before his death and there was nothing in his case history to indicate that he was suffering from this or any other infectious disease.

Members of Mr Dumbell's family were too upset to comment yesterday. John Forsythe, a consultant and secretary-elect of the British Transplant Society, said: "The chances of cross infection are remote.

"Every patient has a major dose of antibiotics and then those are altered and may be extended once post-mortem results on the donor are available as in this case.

"This patient now has a working liver with the tiny chance of cross-infection and would have faced a much greater risk by remaining on the transplant list.

"It would be nice to reject organs which present a risk, but if we did that it would significantly reduce the amount of transplants we do and more people would die waiting for life-saving operations."