What you lose when you sign that organ donor card
Eighteen months ago, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal, titled What You Lose When You Sign That Donor Card. it was written by Dick Teresi. Since the article was posted, Dick has published a book called The Undead…how medicine is blurring the lines between life and death.
I had read his book about a month before the WSJ came out and loved his writing style, sense of humor and his ability to take medical concepts that I was just starting to understand and turn them into an easy to understand book on the transplant industry.
To say a firestorm exploded would be putting it mildly. My grief therapist even called me to tell me she read the article in the Sunday paper,”Gosh now I understand what you have been saying.” I told her I had read it on Saturday in the online edition and even commented. That comment is now buried in the 572 comments.
Today, my son sent me the article and I decided to read it again and the 572 comments. It was almost comical what started out with reasonable comments and then they slowly turned after an All Points Bulletin was sent out, and all the transplants surgeons, critical care nurses and those who have received organ’s chimed in.
The one thing I kept reading over and over again was, “I hope if you ever need an organ, or you’re loved one does, you don’t get it.” Now that is a wise comeback to make someone feel guilty or fearful for opposing organ donation.
Most of the commenters missed the point completely that you are not dead when they harvest your organs in the sense most people think of death. And that if you are not dead, you feel pain.
Brain death is a legal, medical term that was coined after an Ad Hoc Committee at Harvard determined a new definition of death.
“An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead. A determination of death must be made in accordance with accepted medical standards.”
The definition was formalized by the Uniform Definition of Death Act and is now the standard used in every hospital. In order to harvest the organ’s from a severely injured person that person must be pronounced dead.
The “Dead Donor Rule”
The “dead-donor rule” refers to two accepted ‘ethical norms’ that govern the practice of organ harvesting before transplantation:
1) vital organs should be taken only from dead patients,
2) living patients should not be killed for or by organ procurement.
There is a movement now by several well-known transplant surgeons to get rid of the “dead donor rule,” and call it what it is a legal fiction. Tell people the truth on what is happening…that you are not dead…yes, critically injured…and get consent to harvest your organs knowing you are not dead.
They believe that with such consent, there is no harm or wrong done in retrieving vital organs before death, provided that anesthesia is administered. But, many doctor’s and OPO’s (Organ Procurement Organizations) are not so sure and are fearful that more people will NOT consent if the truth is exposed. The Gift of Life is so benevolent sounding. (((sarcasm)))
Characterizing the ethical requirements of organ donation in terms of valid informed consent under the limited conditions of devastating neurologic injury is ethically sound, optimally respects the desires of those who wish to donate organs, and has the potential to maximize the number and quality of organs available to those in need. Dr. Robert Truog and Dr. Franklin Miller in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Notice the comment is devastation neurologic injury, not brain death.
Buy Dick Teresi’s book, read it yourself, understand it. Whether you are on board for organ donation or against it be informed. I had to sign more forms when I got my daughters ear’s pierced at the mall and was handed a pamphlet to read than you handed when you are 16 years old at the DMV, or Secretary of State.
Don’t be intimidated to stand up for life…from conception to true death.
Success Stories of those who have awakened before organs were taken. Regardless of what the doctors will tell you people have survived.