Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why I Almost Tore Up my Organ Donor Card

I have over the past two months watched a beautiful little girl, who suffers from end-stage cystic fibrosis, being butchered to death on network television.  Of course, FOX News commentators pretend that we are witnessing the opposite, a dying child's recovery.  But their slanted reporting is aimed at embarrassing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who refused to ignore medical protocols, by thrusting 11 year old Sarah Murnaghan to the top of the adult organ transplant list.



In any case, since the child received a court-ordered double lung transplant on June 12, she has had surgery to remove the failed transplant, surgery to transplant two new lungs, contracted pneumonia, had surgery to repair a paralyzed diaphragm, surgery to insert a feeding tube in her stomach, surgery to cut a hole in her windpipe in order to insert a breathing tube, and as of this morning, surgery to wrap the upper part of the stomach around itself to reinforce the sphincter that prevents acid from going up the food pipe.

Sarah Murnaghan still requires a ventilator because she cannot breathe with the new lungs, and still suffers from end-stage cystic fibrosis.  Her prognosis remains grim. She will never be able to go outside and play with other children, nor even reach adulthood without several more organ transplants.  And conservatives are hailing this nightmare situation as a victory against Obamacare and death panels.

Yes, this is just one case, when thousands of critically ill people have regained their normal lives because of the generosity of organ donors.   But a legal precedent has been set and our health care system is already strained to the breaking point.  I find it  repugnant that judges, politicians and cute-kid poster contests may be able to determine who gets my organs,  rather than allow medical professionals  to make decisions based on the recipient's life expectancy and quality of life.   

As tempted as I may be, I will not allow one incident to deflect me from "doing the right thing."  In fact, as the Murnaghan case is playing out, I now realize that few if any children and their parents will choose to sue for adult lungs.  Little Sarah's deteriorating health, inability to be weaned off a ventilator, agony from compression fractures of the spine is convincing proof that judges and social media are not the best counsel for complex medical decisions.