Doctors are calling for more Britons to agree to donate their bowel for transplant after they die.
Donor bowels can be used to cure severe cases of debilitating gut conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Yet, although donor cards may indicate an individual is willing to donate all their organs, families must consent to each transplant.
Family consent for bowel donation is lower than for other organs, including hearts, livers, kidneys and lungs.
While 99 per cent of donor families agree to kidneys and livers, only 79 per cent give the go-ahead for bowels.
‘Sadly, there seems to be limited awareness of bowel transplants, among donors’ families and transplant co-ordinators,’ says Darius Mirza, consultant transplant surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and author of new research on the subject.
‘Donor families have to give permission for each organ separately, and sometimes this can put extra strain on the co-ordinator asking for consent and the families who have to decide at a time of immense grief,’ says Mr Mirza.
‘Families give consent more readily for the transplant organs that are better known.’
About 20 bowel transplants were carried out in the UK last year.
Mr Mirza says: ‘The operation is life-changing, especially for young children born without a working bowel.’