Members of a surgical team implant a donated harvested kidney to transplant into patient Adam Abernathy as part of a five-way organ transplant swap in New York, August 1, 2012. Reuters

British doctors at Hammersmith Hospital in London made medical history by harvesting and transplanting the kidney and liver cells of a dead six-day-old baby girl to two recipients on Monday.

The recipients are also infants like the donor whose heart stopped beating.

Dr Gaurav Atreja, one of the doctors, thanked the parents of the deceased newborn for their bravery and courage and quick response for the request to donate some of her organs.

Severe oxygen starvation and extensive brain damage while in the womb caused the baby to be unresponsive and still when delivered at term through caesarian section. Upon assessment, the newborn female has nil chance of survival, and the medical staff broached the idea of organ donation to the infant’s parents.

Upon receiving the consent of the parents, the medical team came up with a plan to gather the healthy kidneys and some liver cells of the infant.

Atreja, a consultant neonatologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, called the organ donation a milestone for giving hope to the family of the recipients.

He said, quoted by The Guardian, “If I put myself in the same situation, donation gives me hope, something to hold onto, that a part of my child is still living somewhere and making a difference to someone else’s life.”

Neurological tests, such as reaction of an infant’s pupils to bright lights, confirm brain stem death of an infant above two months old. Current UK guidelines disallow doctors from using the test on babies less than two months. They must instead wait for the baby’s heart to stop as indicator that the organs could be harvested under existing UK guidelines.

It makes identifying suitable infant donor-candidates more difficult. Moreover, size of the donated organ is a major factor if a baby-patient could undergo the lifesaving procedure or not.

To contact the writer, email: