Martin to urge lung transplant for Billy

HEALTH Minister Mícheál Martin is to urge surgeons involved in Ireland's transplant programme to give a lung transplant to a young man struggling to stay alive.

Billy Burke, from Killorglin, Co Kerry, who has cystic fibrosis, says he has been denied a double organ transplant as a result of a Government agreement with a British hospital.

"Irish patients are being left to die because of this situation and I am not about to lie down and become a casualty of this bureaucracy. I have fought too long and too hard to be allowed to die over something as stupid as this," the 29-year-old said yesterday.

Mr Burke has been waiting three-and-a-half years for the life-saving transplant but over a year ago was taken off the waiting list at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle after developing a lung infection.

A Manchester hospital has offered to carry out the transplant but Newcastle, which has 'first call' on donated Irish lungs, has not released organs for Mr Burke.

Department of Health officials will attend a meeting to review Ireland's transplant agreement with the Freeman Hospital in Dublin next Friday.

The meeting will be attended by clinicians and administrators from Beaumont Hospital, who co-ordinate Ireland's transplant programme, the Mater Hospital, where the country's first lung transplant is to be conducted, and the Freeman Hospital. Newcastle's hospital has conducted 47 lung transplants on Irish patients since 1999.

Mr Martin said that, on a human level, Mr Burke's case was one of the toughest he had encountered during his political career.

"I sympathise with the minister but I have to fight my corner too," said Mr Burke, who is on an oxygen machine 24 hours a day. "For me, every day is a struggle."

Mr Burke has accused Newcastle of "cherry-picking" patients, and said they should no longer be in control of who gets a transplant. He said that responsibility should be handed over to the Mater Hospital.

Mr Burke was told four years ago he only had a year to live.

"I have beaten all the odds to come this far but I don't know how long I will be able to keep going," he said.

Irish organs should follow Irish patients, irrespective of which hospital carries out the operation, said Mr Burke, who described his outlook as very bleak.

"And it's not just me," he said.

"My name is being put forward but there are a lot of people like me all over Ireland who are not happy with the service they are getting from Newcastle.

"It has to be sorted out. Newcastle is playing God with Irish lives," said Mr Burke.

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