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Laura Davis (1987?-93)

Publicity surrounding certain medical conditions can have a long-term impact on medical treatment. One such case is that of Laura Davis, whose death in 1993 had a huge impact on multiple transplant surgery in the UK. She was born with gastroschisis, which meant she was unable to digest food. At the time, an operation to replace Laura's small bowel and liver was unavailable in the UK, so her parents travelled to Pittsburgh, where this highly experimental surgery was available.

Laura's surgery in the United States was funded by donations from the public. Her surgery was successful and she began to recover. Unfortunately, she developed cancerous growths on her other organs because of the high level of anti-rejection drugs that she had to take. One year later Laura went back to Pittsburgh to have her small bowel, liver, kidneys, stomach and pancreas replaced. This was the most ambitious multi-organ transplant ever attempted, but it was unsuccessful and Laura died in November 1993.

Criticism has been levelled at the surgeons in the United States who attempted radical five-organ transplant surgery, but the argument has been put forward that these experimental procedures may become more common in the future as medical knowledge expands.


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‘Laura’s Legacy: 10 years on’, accessed 1 December 2008