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Bombshell allegations against New York organ procurement entity

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 ofevidence 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.

HT Secondhand Smoke, which is changing its name to Human Exceptionalism and its location to NRO.

Comments (14)

I just switched my DL to a new state, and made sure to check the organ donor box. My thought was, "Well, I'll be dead, and surely this won't affect my resurrection body, and it might do somebody some good."

Re-thinking that decision now.

I have a whole series, R.C., which you might find interesting. Click on the "organ donation" tag and browse. The only one that for some reason wasn't tagged in that series is this one:


Other than that, I believe everything is under the tag "organ donation." You may be especially interested in this one:


I have refused to check that box for a long time, because I've simply known all along where this is headed. It is my way of refusing while I am still (grudgingly) permitted to do so.

One of the stock criticisms of John Rawls' ethics of substantive redistributive justice, which I have encountered in several ethics texts, is that if taken to its logical conclusion, it would imply the claim that a man with perfect vision "owes" one of his eyes to the man without perfect vision, because it lacks any real internal limiting principle. This was understood, I take it, to be a fairly serious reductio requiring a fairly serious response from the Rawlsian theorist.

Now, we also once thought that arguments showing a necessary line of reasoning from pro-abortion advocacy to infanticide were powerful warnings. Then we found that no, faced with such logic, a great many ethicists (and a great many laymen) will simply conclude that yes, infanticide must be permissible since there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with their premises.

So, how long before we have to come up with a different line of attack on Rawls?

Sage, I tend to think that if people are unwilling to accept an ethical reductio, or if they are unwilling to accept a great many specific ethical reductios, it gets to the point that there is no response. If someone genuinely believes that organs are "owed" to others, and if he's willing to bite the bullet that this could mean _his_ life being taken, it's difficult to know how to argue further with someone that messed up.

It's interesting how much of this was obvious all the way back in the 1970's.

See here for something brief on John Harris's insane but influential 1975 article "The Survival Lottery." I note the extreme importance to Harris's essay of the premise that there is no difference between killing X and not going to extraordinary lengths (including killing Y to obtain his organs for X) to save X.


Btw, I've actually read Harris's article, and this summary is correct. In fact, Harris isn't just "exploring consequences." He seems quite serious, and he even says that under the conditions he specifies, a person who attempts to run away when his number is chosen in the lottery could be regarded as committing attempted murder against those for whom his organs would otherwise be used.

a person who attempts to run away when his number is chosen in the lottery could be regarded as committing attempted murder


Only an ivory-tower type could have come up with this to start. It takes considerable intelligence, a fair amount of time to let it roam free, and a distinctly immoral set of premises. Nobody who works on cars or lawns or in a restaurant would put up with such stupidity for a minute if such a notion occurred to them out of the blue - to BEGIN with, that is.

It is only after people are hoodwinked into accepting the ivory-tower psychotic as an "expert" that they will consider reliquishing their own (sound) common sense in favor of the expert saying all sorts of mad things. But usually, the evil genius is not saying the worst of the mad nonsense directly to the regular folk where the regular folk will hear of it - oh no, that he reserves for his scholarly journal articles.

it gets to the point that there is no response

There is a response to those who actually did this. Charge everyone from the Network on the conference call who agreed with Goldstein and every hospital worker who knowingly facilitated that demand with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit the same. And as much as I am loathe to say it normally, find the nastiest piece of work special prosecutor who is willing to make Mike Nifong look like a boy scout in pursuit of their hides.

I remember the first got my drivers license at sixteen and people called me cold/selfish for not signing up for the organ donation sticker.

I had two thoughts:

1. They are my organs and I don't want to share.

2. My organs could potentially save dozens, which if you look at just the numbers is a conflict of interest. Even a moral person would probably at least have the thought: if I let this person die I could save many more than just this patient who may not wake up anyway. Maybe they don't try as hard to wake you up?

I am on the organ donor list through my (basically unused) drivers license.

I am reconsidering that as well.

Do any jurisdictions remain where ordinary folks need not fear for their lives in view of plug-pulling/organ-harvesting policy every time they need to go to an emergency room?

Anyone interested in the topic would find the book Twice Dead very interesting. I think death is a process rather than an event.

Does anyone know if there are any comprehensive studies for the efficacy of organ transplants by type? I can't help but wonder if at least many of them are far less successful than we're led to believe. I think the record for a heart transplant to have lasted is forty years, but I think many of all types fail much more quickly or the patient succumbs to secondary results of immunosuppressant anti-rejection drugs. I could be wrong, but it seems to me by checking the box we're not saving a life but possibly extending one for a fairly short period on average in fact. I have read of horror scenarios where a brother donates a part of a liver that doesn't transplant successfully and destroys the donor liver too. Again, I don't know how common this is, but we are dealing with a culture of death where sometimes success doesn't even seem to be the main point. Maybe it is about doctors playing God and us feeling like there must always be a second chance. Of course, I'm not saying success would justify anything but I'm just skeptical of the boosterism that does have a real effect on potential donors.

Mark, I believe that cornea and tendon usage is pretty successful, and for much more than just a 2 or 3 year period. While I am very doubtful about the approaches used to harvest organs, (well, the approaches used to identify that death has occurred), I don't have much doubt that SOME transplants are very worthwhile for the recipient.

A natural progression of the collectivist mind. If your money and labor are are subject to the Hive your body could hardly be far behind. Medical cannibalism is an end point, inevitable in a morally anarchic society, completely & willfully cut off from the past, free in some quarters to pursue it's unbound, predatory urges, where function is guided by an atavistic & degenerate will.

David Brandt, I'd say that such coordinators work in all states. However, it helps to make it extremely clear to your relatives that you *do not* want to be an organ donor and that they *should not* consent on your behalf. Put it in writing, if that will help them to stand up to the quota-seekers.

I'd say, don't try to split the difference. Don't think, "Well, I'll check the organ donor box on my license application and then give my nearest and dearest a big lecture about how they should make sure that the docs have really done good tests before declaring me dead." That doesn't work. The relatives are not going to be brought into medical consultation on that kind of thing! The docs are the "experts" and will tell the relatives that if you're moving it's just "residual twitching, like a chicken with its head cut off." So your safest bet is utterly to refuse to be a donor, period. If you put it in writing for your relatives, they can simply say when the vultures approach them, "Look, this is already settled. My husband was completely opposed to being a donor. He has written down that he doesn't want to be a donor. I am going to honor his wishes. There's no point in your talking to me. The issue is closed. Get lost."

In Texas (again), very recently, a guy not much further past the mid-century mark than I am went in for semi-routine surgery. There was a complication. Bleeding. He died. Lickety-jiminy, before you could say "autopsy" he'd been carved up and parted out and what little they couldn't harvest was returned to his family in a little jar fresh from the crematorium. He was, of course, an organ donor.

I would like to retire to a state- or country, if need be- where the doctor's duty is still seen as preserving the life on the operating table for that life's own sake. Maybe a country where organ harvesting is treated as a 'let the punishment fit the crime' offense.

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