By Noushaba T. Rashid

Doctors from the Great Ormond Street Hospital in the United Kingdom are arguing that the guidelines for organ donations from infants less than two months should be amended. Currently, the UK discourages neonatal donation, mainly due to the uncertainty of whether or not the infant is brain dead, which is the loss of all brain function. However, these donations could be very valuable in saving many infant lives. In other nations, infants and children who are pronounced dead can have their organs donated by their families. Heart dead infants can have their organs donated but none have been declared in the UK as of yet. A recent study on the many infant deaths at Great Ormond Street Hospital show that these infants could have been potential organ donors if the current guidelines were different. Eighty-four of the infants that had died between January 1 2006 and October 31 2012 were potential donors. That was 54% of the total. The Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health is reviewing the current guidelines and is due to report in summer 2014.

The study was done by researchers from St George’s Medical School, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and London Donation Services team, NHS Blood and Transplant. It was a review of a mortality database, clinical database and a patient notes review. The goal with the survey was to determine the number of infants who had died between term and two months of age from January 1 2006 and October 31 2012 could have been organ donors. Not all the information was collected so the actual number could be lower. It is also impossible to know which families would have donated if allowed.

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