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Monday, April 16th 2007

The Pressure For Organs

Following on the discussion of how to improve transplantable organs, I found this story about a potential donor who was prematurely declared brain dead.

A man whose family agreed to donate his organs for transplant upon his death was wrongly declared brain-dead by two doctors at a Fresno hospital, records and interviews show.

[A] third physician…determined that John Foster, 47, was not brain-dead, a condition that would have cleared the way for his organs to be removed, records of the Feb. 21 incident show.

“It kind of blew my mind,” said the daughter, Melanie Sanchez, “like they were waiting like vultures, waiting for someone to die so they could scoop them up.”

This story apparently follows another story in SLO, where a transplant surgeon is under suspicion of hastening a donor’s death with excessive pain meds.

The subjective perception of events like these are hard to judge. But it is kind’ve distressing to read how his daughter perceived the organ network which was waiting for her father to die,

After [she] agreed to donate [her father's organs], she said, she got calls “at least twice a day” from the organ group, saying: “We have to get the body parts in a certain time. Your dad can be a life-saver to someone else. How is he doing today? Did he go up or down?”

[Phyllis Weber, executive director of the California Transplant Donor Network,] said she was sorry to hear that Sanchez felt pressured. Other family members told The Times that they did not feel coerced, although the ultimate decision was Sanchez’s.

“It’s certainly not ever our position to pressure families to make this decision,” Weber said.

Of course the implication by the LA Times article is that everyone, including CTDN, is trying to cover their ass.

Phyllis Weber, executive director of the California Transplant Donor Network, said the donation would not have proceeded anyway because her organ procurement staff also had concerns about whether the patient was brain-dead.

If her staff had concerns, however, they were not reflected in the confidential case notes kept by the donor network.

Dr. Robert Grazier, the second physician who declared Foster brain-dead, acknowledged that he performed a brief examination. “I examined the patient and I confirmed the first doctor’s findings that were recorded. That was about it,” Grazier said.

My involvement in it was pretty minimal,” he said.

The emphasis is my own.

It is hard to say what exactly went on in this case. But is certainly not a good story and it can do nothing but damage the publics’ perception of organ donation by raising probably their greatest fear.