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Woman Dies After Receiving Smoker's Lungs in Transplant

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Those in need of an organ transplant can sometimes be left in limbo for years waiting for a life-saving organ to come available. It was no surprise that Jennifer Wederell, a 28-year-old British woman, jumped at the chance to undergo a lung transplant in April 2011. Sadly, Jennifer wasn't told that the lungs she was receiving were those of a long-time smoker. Jennifer died within 16 months of her transplant.

Jennifer suffered from Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that would mean that Jennifer would die rather young. Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive and debilitating lung disease and by the age of 20, Jennifer needed an oxygen mask 24-hours-a-day to survive. Needless to say, she was eager to receive the transplant and so was her family but was not told that the lungs were from a smoker. But by February 2012, a malignant mass was found on her new lungs.

Some doctors say that Jennifer would've been no better off if she had waited longer to receive a different set of lungs, and that she would've likely died. In fact, according to doctors in the U.S., here we also allow donor organs to come from those who have engaged in some risky lifestyle behaviors because of the overwhelming number of people in need of organ transplants and too few donors. Doctors at Harefield Hospital in London where the transplant was performed have apologized to Jennifer's family, but say that doctors are not required to reveal the history of a donor unless directly asked.