Woman, 27, Tragically Dies of Cancer After Getting Heavy Smoker's Lungs in Transplant

Heartbreaking 11

smokingWhen 27-year-old named Jennifer Wederell who had fought a difficult battle with cystic fibrosis died this past summer, her passing was the result of a horrifying medical misstep. Jennifer received a lung transplant in April 2011. But it wasn't until she was diagnosed with lung cancer, in February 2012, that she learned her lungs were from a heavy smoker ... someone who smoked "20 cigarettes a day."

Of course you can imagine how utterly horrified and angered Jennifer and her family were by this discovery ... But tragically, by the time the young woman was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread and she died in August. While the hospital where she had her transplant apologized and called the situation an "oversight," the unnerving reality of the matter is that they legally did nothing wrong ...

Currently, hospitals aren't required to divulge every detail about a potential donor's history, so long as the organ is healthy. The Daily News spoke with Dr. Roblee Allen, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at UC Davis, who explained:

You don't go through detailed histories of smoking, all that kind of stuff. You tell them that the patient is free of any diseases, but the specifics aren't necessarily reviewed.

That's apparently because families don't always want their loved ones' private details shared with a stranger. Nonetheless, it sounds like the laws and practices surrounding organ donation need to change. More information and specifics have to be available to patients receiving organs, because detailed histories could make all the difference in whether or not the organ saves or costs them their lives.

What happened to Jennifer is an obviously horrible example of this. But, at the same time, I hope stories like hers don't deter people from getting or donating much-needed organs. For every nightmarish tale like this, I would hope there are many more with happy endings. My fiance and I are friends with a couple who recently participated in a kidney donation chain -- the husband gave to a stranger, so his wife could receive a kidney transplant that saved her life. Today, they are healthier than they've ever been.

And happy stories like that are what Jennifer's family want to see going forward. That's why they've launched a campaign called Jennifer's Choice to raise awareness about the organ shortage and encourage non-smokers to sign up as donors. Good!

While there's no reason to incite unnecessary fear about organ donation, perhaps Jennifer's story is a wake-up call. Maybe it is time to take a closer look at how organs are donated and given to patients in need. Because what happened to this vibrant young woman may have been legal, it's still utterly unacceptable.

How do you feel about organ donation?

 
Image via Shannon Holman/Flickr
 

general health, cancer

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Sirena Robinson

Okay, I am a lawyer and I call bull shit on this. Organ donation is an incredibly detailed process and for a lung transplant, smoking would absolutely be one of the factors. Weight is a factor, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc. You have to be in almost PERFECT health to qualify to donate organs. Smoking would absolutely preclude someone from donating a lung. Furthermore, hospitals and doctors are required to disclose the risks of a procedure. Getting LUNG CANCER is certainly a risk. At the VERY least, this is a medical malpractice suit, and I would think maybe even negligence and wrongful death. I would very much encourage this woman's family to seek legal counsel.

Vegeta Vegeta

Yeah I thought organs had to be pristine, that's why there's such a shortage.

nonmember avatar Anonymous

Your articles and the way you come across in them annoys me to no end. This occurred in Europe, but you jumped at the chance (as usual) to dump on our country as though it happened here. I realize America is not perfect and in many ways is even corrupt, especially our politicians. Even so, being born an American is a privilege many would die for, and the way you liberals denigrate it and sensationalize everything with your holier than thou, think you have all the answers attitudes makes me sick.

nonmember avatar Sully

As written by Maressa - "Nonetheless, it sounds like the laws and practices surrounding organ donation need to change. More information and specifics have to be available to patients receiving organs, because detailed histories could make all the difference in whether or not the organ saves or costs them their lives."

Maressa - are you aware this occurred in the UK? Did you bother to find out that HIPAA laws are waived for organ donation in the US? Do you do any research at all when writing a post like this? You are writing about a woman who died, it's shameful you didn't bother at all with details or facts.

tuffy... tuffymama

Thank you, Anonymous! Maressa's a pushy PITA about how awful we all are and how we need to "CHANGE." Ugh. She's a Kool-Aid drinker of the highest order!



tuffy... tuffymama

BTW, I donated my placenta when I had LO, and I had to answer EXTENSIVE questions about all my habits, including past smoking, any drug use, whether i used a microwave or not, my diet, the last time I had taken aspirin, Tylenol, etc. It was exhausting, and I nearly decided to renege on the whole thing because of it. Organ donation collection to save someone's life should be even more scrupulous. This kind of story is what we are headed for with socialized medicine. Welcome to reaping what you've sown.

PRIMA487 PRIMA487

Dr Roblee sounds like a real douche. Was he making it up as he went along? Like the attorney said its a detailed process. Roblee, go take a refresher course and a public speaking class,you sound lame

LSeab... LSeabolt1982

Ya know and further more...UH couldnt you tell the lungs were all black from a smoker. I cant believe time was even wasted writing such trash.

PinkB... PinkButterfly66

n what universe are the lungs of a heavy smoker even allowed to be donated?  This has medical malpractice written all over it.

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