Family's anger over transplant mistake

FOR the last two-and-a-half years Marian and Jim Dale have been involved in ongoing discussions with Ipswich Hospital and the coroner's office in a bid to find out why their son Patrick's healthy organs went to waste.

FOR the last two-and-a-half years Marian and Jim Dale have been involved in ongoing discussions with Ipswich Hospital and the coroner's office in a bid to find out why their son Patrick's healthy organs went to waste.

Now Mr and Mrs Dale, of Brantham, say they feel compelled to highlight his case in order to ensure it will not happen again.

Mrs Dale said: "They have stopped us carrying out Patrick's last wishes and I can't put in to words how it feels to be told that this is because of a breakdown in communication.

"We just want to know what protocols have been put in place to stop it happening again and we feel the hospital have not answered our questions."

Doctors have confirmed that all of Patrick's organs, except his left lung which was damaged in the accident, would probably have been able to be used for donation.

Mr Dale: "Every time we see something on the TV about donor cards and how desperately they are needed it is so difficult because we have been in the position where we've seen some one who had a donor card's organs wasted.

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"Apart from his injuries he was a healthy, well-built lad. Think how many people he could have helped."

The hospital admit there was a breakdown in communication but say Patrick's case was "exceptional" His family, however, say they have received no assurance that this kind of thing will not happen to someone else.

Mr Dale said: "We are not doing this to get at the hospital. The care that Patrick got was second to none and the staff were brilliant to us all.

"It just seems as though there's something amiss in the system. We want to get something done so that it does not happen to anyone else."

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said: "We are very sorry that there were exceptional circumstances in this case and we have apologised to Mr and Mrs Dale for what clearly was a breakdown in communication.

"We have learned the lessons which these circumstances showed us and the system that we have in place really does work.

"We would want to reassure the family that we are doing everything we can to make sure that it does not happen to anyone else."

Have you or your family ever had problems with organ donation at Ipswich Hospital? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to

When doctors told Patrick's parents his condition was deteriorating during the afternoon of Saturday December 21st 2002 Mrs Dale made sure they knew he carried a donor card.

In all cases of organ donation a transplant co-ordinator, who is based at Addenbrookes, has to attend.

Because of the nature of Patrick's injuries a coroner would also have been required to carry out a post-mortem at the same time as the organ donation.

A doctor began making preparations for the organ donation to take place but it is from that point that the hospital and coroner's versions of what happened differ.

The doctor says he was told the only way organ donation could take place was if a post mortem could be performed simultaneously, but that the earliest a duty pathologist could be present was the Monday morning.

However, Patrick's injuries were so severe doctors were unable to keep him alive for that long.

The coroner's office say the police officer was told a pathologist would not usually be available until Monday, but if there were extentuating circumstances it could be arranged.

They asked that they were contacted as soon as Patrick died - however they say they did not receive a call until the Monday morning, and he had died late on the Saturday night.

Dr Peter Dean, greater Suffolk coroner, said that, although not officially 'on-call' he and his team are available at weekends and somebody should have been available to deal with Patrick's post-mortem.

He said: "We felt this very sad situations provided lessons to be learned about the importance of effective communication in the event of a death where transplantation might be possible, and we would encourage early involvement of the transplantation co-ordinators by the hospital in these tragic cases."

Patrick's family are today left questioning whether this situation could have been avoided if there were pathologists on-call around the clock.

Mr Dale said: "We can't help wondering if this is something that has happened to other people at the weekends.

"We really do think there needs to be a designated person on call 24-hours a day."

Dr Dean said: "Suffolk does not at this time have a round-the-clock system for designated coroner's officers being on call.

"Functions are performed by uniformed police officers when required out of hours.

"My firm belief is that the county would benefit from a 24-hour on-call system for coroner's officers and I have raised this with the police service."

However, he stressed that he did not feel the lack of an on call officer was the issue in this case.

He said: "As long as all of the individuals involved communicate appropriately the current system works effectively."