Why am I not surprised at the story emerging from Denmark that a young woman, 19-year old Carina Melchior, deemed to be dying and whose family were asked to agree to having her organs transplanted, was not in fact dying.
In fact, she is lucky to be alive, as her respirator was turned off by the doctors, once they had the family's consent to use her vital organs. 'Those bandits in white coats gave up too quickly because they wanted an organ donor,' her enraged father protested - and one can sympathise with his outrage.
However she did survive; as has happened before, the doctors' diagnosis of imminent death, whilst convenient for their desire to harvest her organs, was in fact incorrect.
The problem lies in the fact that for transplants of vital organs (eg the heart) there is a desperate urgency, which drives calamitous decision-making. In fact, as I have blogged before, doctors cannot afford to wait until somebody is dead to remove their heart. Once the heart stops beating, it deteriorates too quickly to be available for transplant.
That is why the diagnosis of 'brain-dead' has been invented: to legitimise the removal of organs from 'heart-beating donors'. Of course, in order to do that, you frequently have to anaesthetise the 'dead' person too, or they wince when they are cut open, which is distressing for the medical staff... One who was not anaesthetised put his arm around a nurse, just before they were about to remove his heart. That saved his life, but had he been anaesthetised, of course, the outcome would have been very different.
Curiously, after the documentary about the Danish girl, many Danish people tore up their donor cards.
But my bet is that most donor-card carriers in this country are completely unaware that they may be sedated and have their hearts removed while their hearts are still beating, their flesh is warm - but someone has decided (and not infallibly, as so many cases prove) that they are dead.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: here
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