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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Lawsuit Contends Pressure to Declare Brain Dead



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This better not be true: A lawsuit filed in Manhattan accuses an organ collecting organization of pressuring doctors to declare dead and harvest.  From the New York Post story:

The New York Organ Donor Network pressured hospital staffers to declare patients brain dead so their body parts could be harvested — and even hired “coaches” to train staffers how to be more persuasive, a bombshell lawsuit charged yesterday. The federally funded nonprofit used a “quota” system, and leaned heavily on the next of kin to sign consent forms when patients were not registered as organ donors, the suit charged. “They’re playing God,” said plaintiff Patrick McMahon, 50, an Air Force combat veteran and nurse practitioner who claims he was fired as a transplant coordinator after just four months for protesting the practice.

So often, as here, these important cases seem to involve a fired righteous whistle blower who may actually be a disgruntled fired employee making trouble. But the mere filing of this lawsuit is a warning, that should get us thinking about preserving trust and integrity in organ transplant medicine: First, we need binding national standards for declaring death in organ donation cases that are followed universally in hospitals. We don’t have them. Second, there does seem to be a potential to treat some patients as organ farms if the case is seen as hopeless. This utilitarianism needs to be resisted at all quarters.  Third, trust in the integrity of the medical system is waning–and with the pressure to cut costs in healthcare growing stronger, it will weaken further–which is why we can never accept a “presumed consent” system of organ donation. Finally, the quality of life ethic poisons all it touches. People who believe–rightly or wrongly–that their loved ones were abandoned for their kidneys and livers will refuse consent. If we want a thriving organ transplant medical sector, it is up to doctors, hospitals, and the procuring organizations to hold the line, to walk the extra mile to earn and maintain the trust of the people.  Allegations such as this need to be seriously investigated, and if true, lanced with the antiseptic of transparency.



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