New York hospitals are routinely 'harvesting' organs from patients before they're even dead, an explosive lawsuit is claiming. The suit accuses transplant non-profit The New York Organ Donor Network of bullying doctors into declaring patients brain dead when they are still alive.
Plaintiff, Patrick McMahon, 50, reckons one in five patients is showing signs of brain activity when surgeons declare them dead and start hacking out their body parts. 'They're playing God,' McMahon, a former transplant coordinator who claims he was fired just four months into the role for speaking out about the practice, told The New York Post.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court yesterday, cites a 19-year-old car crash victim who was was still struggling to breathe and showing signs of brain activity when doctors gave the green light for his organs to be harvested. Network officials including director Michael Goldstein allegedly bullied Nassau University Medical Center staff into declaring the teen dead, stating during a conference call: 'This kid is dead, you got that?'
McMahon, an Air Force Combat veteran, said he believed the 19-year-old could have recovered. 'I have been in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan in combat,' he said. 'I worked on massive brain injuries, trauma, gunshot wounds, IEDs. I have seen worse cases than this and the victims recover.
He said that the donor network makes 'millions and millions' from selling the organs they obtain to hospitals and to insurance companies for transplants.
'Hearts, lungs, kidneys, joints, bones, skin graphs, intestines, valves, eyes -- it's all big money,' he said.
The Air Force Combat veteran and former nurse added that financially strained hospitals are easily influenced to declare a patient brain dead because they're keen to free up bed space.
The lawsuit cites three other examples of patients who were still clinging to life when doctors gave a 'note' - an official declaration by a hospital that a patient is brain dead, which, as well as consent from next of kin, is required before a transplant can take place.
McMahon has accused the donor network of having a 'quota' system and hiring 'coaches' to teach staff how to be more persuasive in convincing family members to give consent to organ donation.
He said 'counseling' staff are like sales teams who are pressured to meet targets and threatened with the loss of their jobs if they fall short.
'If you don't meet the quotas then you'll get fired - that's a fact. I saw it happen,' he said.
'You're not there for grief counseling, you're there to get organs. It's all about sales -- and that's pretty much a direct quote from the organization. Counsellors are required to get a 30 per cent consent rate from families.' McMahon added that staff members who collect the most organs throughout the year qualify for a Christmas bonus.
This is a total scandal. I urge you to read Bleeding Heart Cadavers
The exam for brain death is simple. A doctor splashes ice water in your ears (to look for shivering in the eyes), pokes your eyes with a cotton swab and checks for any gag reflex, among other rudimentary tests. It takes less time than a standard eye exam. Finally, in what's called the apnea test, the ventilator is disconnected to see if you can breathe unassisted. If not, you are brain dead. (Some or all of the above tests are repeated hours later for confirmation.)Posted by Jill Fallon at September 27, 2012 3:38 PM | Permalink
Here's the weird part. If you fail the apnea test, your respirator is reconnected. You will begin to breathe again, your heart pumping blood, keeping the organs fresh. Doctors like to say that, at this point, the "person" has departed the body. You will now be called a BHC, or beating-heart cadaver.
You might also be emitting brainwaves. Most people are surprised to learn that many people who are declared brain dead are never actually tested for higher-brain activity. The 1968 Harvard committee recommended that doctors use electroencephalography (EEG) to make sure the patient has flat brain waves. Today's tests concentrate on the stalk-like brain stem, in charge of basics such as breathing, sleeping and waking. The EEG would alert doctors if the cortex, the thinking part of your brain, is still active.
But various researchers decided that this test was unnecessary, so it was eliminated from the mandatory criteria in 1971.
And how about some anesthetic? Although he doesn't believe the brain dead feel pain, Dr. Truog has used two light anesthetics, high-dose fentanyl and sufentanil, which won't harm organs, to quell high blood pressure or heart rate during harvesting operations. "If it were my family," he said, "I'd request them."