I found a story on a court case in California where a physician has been charged in speeding the death of a disabled and brain damaged patient in order to harvest organs for donation. Medical ethicists fear that the case may cause organ donations to drop because of the negative publicity. The story is from ABC News here.
Every time a story like this surfaces I shake my head in disbelief. What makes these care givers believe that their actions will not be noticed. In this case, the patient was from a poor family that was not able to be present to oversee care but what about the rest of the care team.
As a nurse, do you monitor the dose levels of drugs in patients who are at risk for abuse or do you just administer what the doctor orders without regard? According to police reports cited in the story, nurses in the room when the respirator was removed said the doctor ordered additional sedative doses when the patient didn’t die right away.
Organ donation programs are quick to point out that this situation is in violation of their program protocols which require a complete separation of the donor / transplant teams from the provision of palliative and end of life care to the patient. In other words, the ICU team should not have any contact with the donor/transplant team until death has been declared.
The article linked above is a good one for anyone in the medical community. It raises some good ethical questions and discussion points for both students and practicing professionals.