HC Deb 13 February 1968 vol 758 cc1127-8
2. Dr. David Kerr

asked the Minister of Health whether he will initiate studies of the problems, other than technical problems, involved in organ transplant operations.

41. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Minister of Health whether he will make a statement on his policy in relation to heart transplant and similar operations for transference of organs.

92. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Minister of Health whether he will set up a panel, composed of medical and lay persons, in order to study and advise upon the problems of transplantation of human hearts and of animal hearts into human beings; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. K. Robinson

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are shortly convening a conference to discuss problems connected with organ transplant operations.

Dr. Kerr

Would my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations on taking this decision? We recognise that he understands the enormous ethical, practical and administrative problems which will be involved if organ transplants, particularly those involving the heart, were to be extended rapidly throughout the world? Does he propose to publish a White Paper following the conference?

Mr. Robinson

The conference will be private, but I will consider whether a statement should be made afterwards. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. He will be glad to know that Sir Hector MacLennan, President of the Royal Society of Medicine, has agreed to take the chair.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman who will be invited to the conference? Meanwhile, does he have any plan to ensure that in National Health Service hospitals the donors of hearts or other vital organs are in fact dead before any excision operation is carried out?

Mr. Robinson

The second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is self-evident and self-answering. Invitations have been sent to leading members of the medical and nursing professions, lawyers, representative of the churches, lay men and women.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the forecast that within a decade pigs' hearts will be successfully transplanted into human beings? Bearing in mind that there may be partial brain transfers in future, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the whole matter is considered by the conference and that there is a very strong lay representation as well as medical representation on it?

Mr. Robinson

There will be a strong lay representation. I do not think that this conference alone could encompass the range of study which the hon. and learned Gentleman wants, but I agree that developments in medicine at present and in the foreseeable future require the most careful study on non-medical as well as purely medical grounds.