A new whistle-blower lawsuit makes allegations that in a just world would, if even some are substantiated, shut down the New York State organ procurement organization, the New York Donor Network. An independent investigator should be appointed to look into each and every case to the fullest extent possible. Since there are very serious questions here that would, if borne out, mean that patients were killed for organs, there should also be a role for the state Attorney General. For that matter, it wouldn't hurt a bit if the families of the patients in question socked the Network with lawsuits of their own. If for whatever reason the Network is shielded from suit, they should sue the doctors who succumbed to outside pressure in declaring death.
Here are a few highlights:
In September 2011, a 19-year-old man injured in a car wreck was admitted to Nassau University Medical Center. He was still trying to breathe and showed signs of brain activity, the suit charged.
But doctors declared him brain dead under pressure from donor-network officials, including Director Michael Goldstein, who allegedly said during a conference call: “This kid is dead, you got that?” the suit charged.
That same month, a woman was admitted to St. Barnabas Hospital in The Bronx still showing signs of life, the suit said.
She had a kidney transplant earlier in life and network officials used that to pressure her daughter into giving consent.
McMahon’s objections were ignored by a neurologist, who declared her brain dead — and her organs were harvested, according to the suit. McMahon even claims he tried to get a second opinion.
The network hired marketing and sales professionals to “coach” workers to tailor their pitches based on the family’s demographics, said the suit, filed by McMahon’s lawyers Michael Borrelli, Alexander Coleman and Bennitta Joseph.
The suit said that on Nov. 4, McMahon told Helen Irving, president and CEO of the network, “one in five patients declared brain dead show signs of brain activity at the time the Note is issued.”
Irving, the suit said, replied: “This is how things are done.”
Patrick McMahon, the self-identified whistle-blower (who was fired from the Network), also claims that there was a quota system in place for organ procurement, a claim which, naturally, the Network denies.
You pays your money and you takes your choice. Of course, I fully expect to have some commentators who are convinced that McMahon is wildly exaggerating or lying. To me, his evidence sounds specific and circumstantial and worthy of full investigation. The officials of an organ donation network should have nothing, repeat, nothing to do with the decision to declare a patient dead. If there is to be the faintest pretense of integrity in the organ procurement process, the decision to declare death, made by doctors, must be utterly independent of any influence or pressure from organ procurement agents.
Moreover, we have plenty of other evidence that something is rotten in the State of Denmark when it comes to organ donation, which means that McMahon's allegations aren't particularly far-fetched on their face.