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Monday, December 6, 2010

New York's Organ Harvesting Judges Whether Your Life Is Worth Saving

New York City's recently-begun organ preservation program (which dispatches a second ambulance to the scene of cardiac arrests so, if you conveniently "don't make it," medics can harvest and transport the body to Bellevue Hospital for organ removal) raises the risk of morbid triage.

The existence of this program implicitly admits that there are additional medical resources available to save patients...and that such resources are allocated towards other uses considered more valuable.

In its own way, this program raises serious and complex medical ethics questions.

Does this program represent the latest frontier in the decision as to whose life is worth saving?

Does this program suggest that some cardiac victims are not the most optimal owners of their own bodily organs?

In short, is there (at least potentially) the question of whether you deserve to be saved?

More troubling are the procedural safeguards for ensuring that all efforts are made to save people. The presence of these safeguards implies awareness that, without these procedures, there is at least the temptation to do less than the best effort. That temptation is the very problem; it is the temptation to let you die...or cause you to die.

A noble cause - saving someone else - is no justification. Sacrificing your life to save another is your decision alone.

Let there be no doubt: The procedural safeguards exist to shield New York City from lawsuits.

As for you, you are just a caretaker of organs. Your life ending prematurely may just be acceptable collateral damage.
Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer.

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