Human Exceptionalism

Doctor Once Accused of Trying to Hasten Death to Obtain Organs Not Guilty of Crime

I have written several times about Dr. Hootan C. Roozrokh, who was once accused criminally of trying to hasten a patient’s death with drugs after he didn’t die when his respirator was removed prior to a planned organ procurement. Dr. Roozrokh had no business even being in the operating suite, since he was not the patient’s treating doctor. Under relevant “heart death” ethical protocols, he should have only entered the picture after the patient was formally declared dead.

But being in the wrong place at the wrong time and ordering nurses to provide drugs for someone who was not his patient is not necessarily a crime. That was the view of a San Luis Obispo jury that just acquitted Roozorkh of all charges. From the story:

The surgeon, Dr. Hootan C. Roozrokh, was found not guilty of a single felony charge of abuse of a dependent adult, after two other felony charges–administering harmful substances and unlawful prescription–were dropped last spring. Prosecutors had argued that Dr. Roozrokh, 35, prescribed excessive amount of drugs during a failed harvesting procedure on a brain-damaged donor, Ruben Navarro, in San Luis Obispo, in February 2006.

The doctor’s lawyer, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, had said that Dr. Roozrokh, a surgeon based in San Francisco who had flown in to retrieve the organs, had been trying to ease the patient’s suffering after other doctors failed to perform their duties.

If nothing else, this case illustrates the urgent need for better training in organ procurement, and for national standards that apply universally. Until then, with different medical centers handling these issues differently, we can expect confusion and a continuing loss of confidence among the public in transplant medicine.


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