Donating organs post-mortem is a great practice that’s sorely needed as it can help save countless lives. But not every organ is fit for a transplant donation. Such was the case when doctors from the Wuxi People’s Hospital in Jiangsu, China, extracted a pair of lungs from a chain-smoker (1).
Instead of being a healthy pink, the lungs from the 52-year-old-man were charcoal in colour and extremely inflamed from decades of tobacco residue clogging them up.
Dr. Chen, a lung transplant surgeon and also vice president of the facility, led the operation. He said: ‘The patient didn’t undergo a CT scan before his death. He was declared brain dead, and his lungs were donated shortly after that. Initial oxygenation index tests were okay, but when we harvested the organs, we realised we wouldn’t be able to use them.” (2)
Dr. Chen also explained that “Many smokers in this country have lungs which look like this.”
“Our team decided to reject these lungs for transplant. If you’re a heavy smoker, your lungs may not be accepted even if you choose to donate them after death. Look at these lungs — do you still have the courage to smoke?”
Close to one third of the people in China are smokers – about 350 million people (3). In 2009, people in China smoked a total of 2.3 trillion cigarettes and these numbers have likely remained similar over the last decade.
Dangers of Smoking
Cigarettes are known to produce chemicals responsible for at least 15 different types of cancer. Smoking regularly causes around 70 per cent of all cases of lung cancer, which has the highest death count of any form of cancer.
Some people develop a smoking habit because nicotine can make them feel good, even if it’s just temporarily or just a few hours. It’s easy to become addicted to smoking and very difficult to quit once it becomes a habit.
Smoking kills 1.2million people every year and people who do it are twice as likely to have a heart attack and up to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer.