Brain Dead in Denmark

When 19-year-old Carina Melchior was diagnosed as being brain-dead after a car accident, her parents agreed to donate her organs.  Her respirator was shut off; yet, she continued to breathe. She is now making a full recovery.  (Story.) The hospital claims that there is no possibility of a false diagnosis of brain death [perhaps because the person would continue to live].

After this incident became public, hundreds of people in Denmark struck their names from the rolls of potential organ donors.  Miss Melchior’s family believes that this mistake was made because doctors are desperate for organs and saw her as a source of them, not as human with potential to live.

Not to point out the obvious or anything, but from a totally utilitarian point, they are right: we can save more lives by harvesting organs from a young, healthy person than we can from letting that young person live while would-be organ recipients die.  One healthy human has two healthy lungs, two kidneys, liver nodes, a gallon of blood, a heart, and all sorts of other fun stuff that can be used to save about a dozen lives.  One life versus a dozen lives? Given that perverse incentive to kill the person with a moral right to her organs, why are we shocked when doctors make questionable calls?



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Filed under Bioethics

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