NHS transplant apology

The NHS transplant service has apologised to two patients in the North West after they contracted cancer from donated kidneys.

Robert Law, 59, from Wirral, and Gillian Smart, 46, from St Helens, were both given the life-saving transplants at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.

The kidneys came from the same deceased female donor and medics only learned after the transplant surgery had taken place that the woman had intravascular B-cell lymphoma, a cancer which affects the immune system.

Both Mr Law and Mrs Smart subsequently had to endure six gruelling sessions of chemotherapy after a biopsy of the transplanted kidneys revealed the same lymphoma.

Mrs Smart said: "I felt devastated to learn that I had received a kidney infected with cancer. The result has been psychologically and physically draining." Her sessions of chemotherapy have now been completed and tests show she is cancer-free, but she said the fear of a return of the disease remains.

Mr Law, who is also in remission, said the full details of how and why it happened should be revealed. He had been suffering from chronic kidney disease for five years when his surgery took place, also on November 26 2010.

He said he was assured that the donor kidney was healthy but 12 days later he was told that an autopsy had been performed on the donor and it confirmed she had lymphoma.

Mr Law said: "Revealing how this was allowed to happen would ensure that medical professionals throughout the UK can learn from the mistakes made and ensure better care in the future.

Lynda Hamlyn, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "On behalf of NHSBT, I offer our sincere and unreserved apologies to the patients for the fact that each received a donated kidney that would have been rejected by their surgeon if he had been aware of the complete donor information." Ms Hamlyn said the cause of the mistake was "human error".

Mr Law and Mrs Smart's solicitors are in discussions with the NHSBT over compensation for the patients.