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Organ Procurement
Carol Petrozella, RN, EdD

Robert C. Taukas, RN, BSN, CPTC, Organ Procurement Coordinator for the University of Miami presented a workshop on Organ Procurement at the Medical Campus. This workshop was held in conjunction with Student Life, the Institute for Ethics in Health Care and College Training and Development. Mr. Taukas has given his permission to place the PowerPoint presentation and picture slide show used during this presentation on the web. You may access both of these learning resources on my faculty web page These presentations were produced by Life Alliance.

The need for organs and the procurement of organs raises many ethical issues. Health care technology has continued to expand which makes the transplant of organs an everyday occurrence. The problem is there are not enough organs available and every day people are dying awaiting organ transplants. Desperate people and family members have become very creative in appealing to the public for direct donations. Web sites have been set up, billboards have been used to advertise the need and people have traveled to foreign countries to get organs from around the world. Philanthropists and politicians have made personal appeals on behalf of transplant patients and families.

What about those families who do not have the ability, financially or the connections to get their message out to the public? Is their love one less deserving of an organ? When Americans travel to other countries to get organs, are we “depleting” their supplies? Are we encouraging black market procurement and selling of organs? What about the foreign patients who come to the United States for organ transplants? Are they depleting our supplies? What about the donor who makes a conscious decision to donate organs and has designated himself an organ donor but whose family says no? Should the organs be harvested against the family’s wishes?

Another issue of course is for the family who donates the organs. Robert has been approached for assistance to pay for funeral costs or plane tickets so that family members can say good-bye. On the surface this may seem a small “price” to pay to procure the organs and give someone life but were does the favors end? Could this become a slippery slope? What next? Do we pay for organs?

Look at the popular media for some of the issues that are being raised:

ER aired an episode entitled “The Providers” on January 17, 2005. This program focused on a sixteen year old girl who received a kidney from her father. She had been waiting a very long time and finally was of a size to receive her dad’s kidney. A new medication for her seizures was prescribed for her which caused her kidney to fail. The ending to this story is tragic. The father shoots himself so that she can get his second kidney. She was the next of kin. Her parents were divorced. Should she get the kidney? Should she make the decision as a mature minor?

John Q played by Denzel Washington is about a father goes who to extraordinary lengths to get his son a heart transplant. In this tragic situation he breaks the law holding captives until his demands are met. This brings up the issue of costs and inequities in health care. Who pays the cost of the transplant? If there is no funding, is the transplant refused? John Q Official Movie Site: Starring Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall & James Woods.

This web site also has links to other web sites on this subject.

House, one of the new medical shows, episode “Detox” aired on February 15, 2005. The teenager, who is the focus of the program, goes into complete acute liver failure and Dr. House places him on the liver transplant list. The father is told that “the transplant list has over 15,000 patients.” Dr. House asks the hospital administrator to do what she could to push his name up on the list. In the shows sarcastic byplay it was mentioned that the person that was “bumped was a mother of two.”

Coma, starring Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold, was filmed in 1978 left an indelible impression on me. It is science fiction but could it become real? People were selected for their rare tissue types. Their bodies were suspended and preserved in a “coma like state” until their body parts were needed?

There are so many critical issues involved in organ donation and procurement. Many misconceptions still abound. Education is needed. I hope you take a few moments of your time and review the power point on my faculty web site.

Thank you to Robert C. Taukas for his dedication and support as a member of the Miami Dade Institute for Ethics in Health Care Advisory Committee.


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