Nursing Voices

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Get Your Hands Off My Organs

My husband and I have been married for ten years, and the poor guy can never win an argument. It's not allowed. In our household, the woman is always right. We agree on most things except when it comes to the issue of organ donation. I’m an organ donor, but my husband believes that being an organ donor makes an individual more vulnerable to abuse. He says that there are some sick doctors in the medical community that will kill patients in order to harvest their organs. I’ve always said that was bunk, but then I read a story in the New York Times that proves my husband's point.

A transplant surgeon is being accused of giving a patient heavy doses of morphine and Ativan to hasten a donor’s death. I gave the doctor the benefit of the doubt when I first heard about this story until I read that he is also accused of introducing Betadine into the patient’s system as a way of jumpstarting his death. The doctor’s attorney claims that nothing was done to hasten the patient’s death. Apparently, the nurses disagree. They are testifying on the behalf of the prosecution. I can only imagine what’s going to happen in court. If you were on the jury, who would you believe:

The surgeon accused of killing a patient for his organs, or.....

the patient’s nurses, who are testifying for the state?

My husband is never going to find out about this. I’m not breaking my perfect ten-year record of always being right.


Blogger poody said...

This is a bizarre story to say the least. I mean I am sitting here thinking about the whole betadine thing and wouldn't giving the pt that or the overdose of narcotics cause some sort of damage to any organs that could be harvested???

12:33 PM  
Blogger rlbates said...

Are you sure your husband never reads your blog? :)

1:19 PM  
Blogger Mage And George said...

Read that this morning here. I'll vote for the angels, of course.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Over half of the 98,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

10:33 PM  
Blogger *amanda* said...

wow.... thanks for posting that article. very interesting read. i'm a nursing student and i would have to say that my beliefs on the topic are more towards your husband's. never as extreme as this article, but i have heard of slight biases in doctors and the extent of how far they'll go (or won't go!) to save someone who is a donor. i think a lot of personal factors here can come into play - doctors are human, too. it's just usually a lot harder than this case to monitor/enforce.

11:32 PM  
Blogger by: PM, SN said...

as horrible a story as that is..I don't think an isolated horror story should dissuade people from donating.

Shouldn't we be growing autologous organs from stem cells by now or something?

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course there will be abuses. Transplantation is a big business. As a nurse, I am no longer allowed at the bedside of a grieving family to talk about this issue. An "expert" from the organ bank will be dispatched to speak with the family. Do we ever worry about people making these kind of decisions under duress, or possibly feeling pressured? Why am I no longer allowed this task?

I am not against organ transplantation. Don't get me wrong. But the whole thing opens up possibilities we do not want to consider. What about the nurse who believes in transplantation and knows that the brain-injured man on a ventilator has a nice healthy liver. Might she silence the ventilator long enough to induce a severe bradycardia? Years ago as a nurse in NICU I was asked to give graduated doses of Morphine to a frail patient. Don't think it doesn't happen.

As a nurse, I hold to the standard that the sum total of the individual is much more valuable then the "parts". I give holistic care.


5:54 AM  
Blogger Smalltown RN said...

it's interesting reading your post on organ donors today....on Tuesday on the headlines of there paper was a picutre of a ogran donor recipient...he received a heart...the donor apparantly was very healthy and as a result 7 other people received organ donations from one donor....amazing....I am all for organ donation...hey I don't need it when I am gone...let someone else have it....I have been involved in what happens when patients donate their organs it is quite the process that everyone has to go through....

11:52 AM  
Blogger Jaime said...

I just stumbled across the blog ;) I read this story myself and wondered what many in the medical community think about it.

8:02 PM  

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