Thursday, November 01, 2012

A slur on all the miracle workers who perform organ transplantations

Posted by: Derryn Hinch | 31 October, 2012 - 4:16 PM 3AW693News Talk

Organ transplant. (Photo: Janie Barrett)
This is going to be a hard issue to talk about and a hard interview to conduct because I am more than emotionally involved in it. I feel very strongly about it and feel that even raising it may do more harm than good.
It concerns organ donations, and I am one of the lucky 1000 people in Australia whose life was saved by a donated organ last year.
The new debate is prompted by a new book, written by controversial bioethicist Nicholas Tonti-Filippini. The headline in today’s Age is enough to make an already sluggish and reluctant populace decline to join the register of organ donors.
It trumpets: “Brain-dead not necessarily dead, says ethicist.” And the intro: “Patients in intensive care are being declared brain dead for organ donation when they may still be legally alive.”
The author goes further. He writes: “People are being diagnosed as dead and their organs are being taken when, as a matter of faith, you’d say they were alive.”
It doesn’t matter that medical doctors, experts, say this is nonsense. The damage will have been done at a time when Australia has just dropped out of the top twenty nations for donors per million population.
The Australian New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) says Tonti-Filippini is wrong and warn that he is putting at risk the lives of critically ill people awaiting organ donations to survive.
Professor Bill Silvester, a spokesman for ANZICS, said clinical testing, such as breathing, is the main way to determine death and says a recent World Health Organisation forum on brain death explicitly endorsed the Australian and New Zealand criteria as ‘an exemplar of rigour’.
Tonti-Filippini makes what I consider to be an outrageous claim. He says in his book: “They are diagnosing brain death while there is still some mid-brain function. They say ‘so what?” because the person is not conscious.’”
I defy him to prove that any transplant surgeon – or any surgeon in ICU – has ever been so dismissive of a patient’s life to say ‘so what?’
The ethicist also casts doubts about the point of death for religious people. He says: “It’s enormously significant to the Church because people are being diagnosed as dead and their organs are being taken when, as a matter of faith, you’d say they were alive.”
That is irresponsible and reckless twaddle. But he goes further and says most religious people understood death as the separation of body and soul and had accepted that occurred with the loss of brain function.
What’s he saying? That we should wait until we hear the flutter of bleeping angel’s wings before the start of organ removal.
There used to be a time when governments, hospitals and even the Vatican, decreed that a person wasn’t dead until their heart stopped beating. But more than 30 years ago that definition of death was changed.
What annoys me about this proposition being espoused by a non-medical ‘expert’ is that it depicts wonderful, life-saving, medical teams, as something akin to gravediggers, body-snatchers or even killers.
You ask anybody who has been so fortunate to receive an organ donation. Like me they would say if there were any doubt that something unethical, or illegal, or even immoral, had preceded that gift of life they could not have accepted it.
Bob Jones, this is a slur on you and all the miracle workers, the medical staff at places like the Austin and the Royal Children’s. It is disgraceful.

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