A new study has revealed that patients in need of lung transplant are happy even if they get lungs from active smokers even though they are aware that they might live a shorter life compared to those who get lungs from a non smoker.
Researchers claimed that patients will survive longer if they are willing to accept lungs from anyone, including smokers.
In Britain, that's a key issue, for about 40 percent of lungs that are donated come from people who have previously smoked.
Still in recent years, several cases of British patients dying after getting lungs from smokers have sparked calls for the policy to be overhauled.
Doctors behind the new study insisted that changing the U.K. transplant system would be wrong and lead to a spike in the number of people dying while waiting for donated lungs, the Fox News reported.
"That could deny patients the opportunity to get help," said Dr. James Neuberger, associate medical director of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and one of the study's authors.
Neuberger and colleagues analyzed data from the U.K. Transplant Registry and the Office of National Statistics on the survival rates of 2,181 adult British patients waiting for lung transplants between 1999 and 2010.
It was found that about 2 in 5 of those transplants came from smokers.
They found that patients who got lungs from smokers were about 46 percent more expected to die within three years after getting the replacement lungs compared to patients who got the organs from non-smokers.
But still they had a 21 percent reduced chance of dying versus people who were still on the waiting list.
In the U.S., doctors also use lungs from smokers, but Norman Edelman, the chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, didn't have any data regarding how often that happens.
Both U.S. and the U.K. have similar overall smoking rates of about 20 percent.
Some experts claimed that it wasn't realistic to expect organ donor systems to refuse lungs from smokers because the demand is such that nearly every usable lung is transplanted.
The key issues in lung transplants entail the size of the lung and the donor's blood type, which must match the recipients.
"There is rarely an 'ideal' organ available," he said.
He insisted that most organs have defects based on factors like underlying disease or the age and circumstances of the donor's death.
"A smoker donor is really just one more factor to consider," he said.
In the U.K., advocates have asked for patients to be given more information about organ donors before accepting a transplant.
In year 2010, the family of a 28-year-old woman with cystic fibrosis lodged a complaint when she died an year after getting lungs from someone who had been a smoker for three decades.
They said she had not been told and would have been shocked to get a smoker's lungs.
Neuberger claimed that patients had the right to refuse lungs from smokers as long as they understood the implications.
"I'd rather take the lungs from a smoker than get no lungs at all," he added.
The study was published in the journal, Lancet.