Saturday, March 03, 2007

Misconduct During Organ Harvesting & Futility?

This story is disturbing on many levels. A mentally retarded man was hospitalized for a critical illness. He was an organ donor whose organs were to be harvested after the removal of his respirator.

The problem was, he didn't die fast enough after the respirator was removed. This led to the physician to order and have administered massive amounts of morpine and sedatives. He still did not die and another dosage was ordered. In fact, he did not die until the next morning!

First, the hospital policies do not allow a physician who is going to harvest a patient's organs to administer treatment. The ordering of the morphine and sedatives were a treatment. There is an inherent conflict of interest when a physician, who desires to take someone's organs, to administer treatment. In this case, there is a question about whether the administration of these drugs were "treatment" in the usual sense--or a conscious attempt at euthanasia. I believe that a criminal investigation should ensue.

Further, given that the patient apparently started breathing on his own after being removed from the respirator, didn't the doctors have a duty to administer treatment to preserve his life?
He wasn't brain dead, after all.

I am also concerned about the fact that the man was mentally retarded. Did he have a surrogate making treatment decisions? Who was the surrogate? A family member? A state-appointed guardian?

Many mentally retarded adults living in long-term care facilities have no family or guardian. What was this man's situation?

What brought about the initial decision to remove care? Was it truly just his medical condition? Did his mental retardation play into any "quality of life" assessments? Was this a case of "futility" based on non-physiological reasons?

Finally, how often does this sort of thing happen in organ harvesting situations? How far away are we in this increasingly Godless country from situations like this?

(HT Dakota Voice Blog)

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