Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Family Seeks Injunction against OPO Removing Life Support

I am just pulling a copy of the complaint in this case just filed in Sacramento Superior Court.  Gloria Woods was in an auto accident on April 30 and is in critical condition at the UC-Davis Medical Center.  The family was soon "contacted by Sierra Donor Services and advised that Department of Motor Vehicle records indicated that Gloria Woods was an organ donor." At that time Sierra Donor Services inquired of plaintiffs when they would be able to harvest Gloria Woods' organs. Plaintiffs responded that Gloria Woods was still alive. 

"Thereafter, Sierra Donor Services contacted plaintiff again and advised that it had the right to make the decision to remove Gloria Woods from life support and then to harvest the organs of Gloria Woods in light of the Department of Motor Vehicle records."

The family seeks a restraining order and injunction against Sierra and the UC-Davis Hospital, preventing them from removing Gloria from life support and from harvesting her organs.  They claim, quite reasonably, that "irreparable injury would result" if her organs are harvested.


Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

My understanding is that the organ procurement agency has no authority to be the determining source with regard to whether the patient meets the criteria of death. It is the patient's physicians to make that decision. If the patient does not meet the criteria for death, the agency cannot have organs removed on their order regardless of the previous organ donation legal documents by the patient. The organ procurement agency has no authority, if the patient is still alive, to order the termination of life support to cause the death of the patient and thus permit organ procurement as "donation by cardiac death". The authority is that of the legal surrogates of the patient. If the courts accept that the procurement agency has the right to order that a live patient be removed from life support against the decision of legal surrogates will wipe out what has always been an accepted separation of organ procurement from medical treatment and decision making. ..Maurice.

Brian McMichael, M.D. said...

An issue that is glossed over is whether this patient is brain-dead, of which I am circumstantially assuming.

Brain-dead is dead.

Dead patients are removed from life support.

If organs can be harvested, and there is pre-existing consent or consent is obtained, then the body's vital signs and homeostasis are maintained as well as possible, until organ harvesting is performed.

This is done so that the recipient will receive an organ that is in the best condition possible. This maximizes the possibility that the recipient will then benefit from the transplant by receiving an organ that is more likely to function well.

Once the organs are harvested, no measures are taken to maintain the homeostasis and vital signs of the patient because, as was stated before, the brain-dead, and therefore dead patient, was already dead before the harvesting was undertaken, and is still dead once that is finished.

Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

This story is now over since the family voluntarily decided to allow procurement before the judge had made a decision regarding the case. The organs were obtained on May 10th: http://www.fox40.com/news/headlines/ktxl-family-opposing-womans-organ-donation-now-allowing-it-20120503,0,5903324.story

What remains unclear from the press releases is whether the organ procurement agency intruded in the doctor-patient/family relationship. If the patient was not already dead by clinically established criteria, regardless of the patient's legal notification accepting organ procurement (such as on the patient's drivers license), it is my understanding that the organ procurement agency has no authority to order that the live patient be taken off life support to then die and become a donor. Only the patient or legal surrogate utilizing substituted judgment can make that request. ..Maurice.