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The holiday of a lifetime

Some cases stick with you over the years. I remember a young woman who was left fighting for her life as a result of viral myocarditis. That someone previously fit and in the prime of her life could be struck down with such speed was a shock to this (then) fresh-faced young doctor; how her family coped with the awful truth that a heart transplant was the only way to save her, I will never know.

Imagine the same case happening in 2014. Intensive care, a young life, tubes, lines, drugs - 21st century medicine doing its best and running out of options. The difference is that the young woman in question is here on holiday, lives outside the EU, and Jeremy Hunt’s proposal to clamp down on ‘health tourism’ has found its way onto the statute books. The rules have changed for organ transplants - those without a right to remain in the country are excluded. A heart transplant is her only hope - but she is deemed unworthy, a health tourist who came to these shores to exploit our free health service. She should have known that she would develop viral myocarditis while on holiday and stayed in her own country where she had a right to care.

By a strange coincidence the young man who lies in the bed next to her is also here on holiday from the same country. Like his fellow country-woman, he had no idea of the tragedy that awaited him - he never saw the car coming, the resident-with-the-right-to-remain who was driving too fast. His family have been told the news that he is brain dead and only his healthy, vibrant organs remain; would they like to consider organ donation?

Dr Martin Brunet is a GP in Guildford and programme director of the Guildford GPVTS. You can tweet him @DocMartin68