Rebuttal: Lawsuit Claims Mother’s Organs Taken by Philadelphia Hospital Against Her Wishes

This is a sensitive subject.  While I do in fact, feel for the family – something seems truly amiss here.

This NBC report aired today & was posted online from my Philadelphia area NBC affiliate.  However, the report leaves more questions than answers.   There is a key difference between autopsy & organ donation consent conversations. The way this is framed it makes it sound like they are one & the same, when they are not.  This type of reporting is not fair to the family involved or anyone in this particular region who is listed or being evaluated for a transplant of any organ. It also does harm & instills fear about the processes.  I also (in my humble opinion) feel it does a gross injustice to those families who do donate in a time of mourning.

(They also need to point out to their copyeditor or proofreader the importance of good spell-checking in addition to fact-checking since the word hospital is misspelled in the headline of the web article.)

I feel also there’s great misunderstanding between the two processes – both autopsy & organ donation (period) & their protocols & purposes. I also feel that the media doesn’t do a good job of researching or outlining the differences for the public, which I think they should, because it adds depth & balance to a story – a key ingredient in solid journalism. But then again, that’s the old school journalism graduate in me speaking.   So, in my own examination to uncover the facts, I started here at the DOJ (Department of Justice) & the protocols for autopsies since I didn’t have a clear grasp or understanding myself & wanted to learn more.

The problem with stories like these is that they pit transplantees against families because of the way they are presented. As if  autopsy & organ proceurement are one & the same when in fact they are not. It’s hard enough to have to be at the bridge of needing a transplant or going through the evaluation process. This just seeks to make it worse by perpetuating falsehoods that could shrink the donor pool by making people falsely hesitant. This is an added injustice to an already difficult situation. It also does this family wrongdoing to not present their story factually & accurately. There’s little detail about what was discussed or a timeline of events of what conversations or consents were given to the family.  They may never even had the discussion of donation enter the room at all if they weren’t willing. That should have been reported along with the fact if there is suspected wrongdoing with autopsy protocols, if there was wrongdoing to begin with. It’s an important clarification to make.

It is a common myth that has been debunked that organ donation is against religious principles.  The Finger Lakes Donation Recovery Network has an excellent article that outlines this issue.  Furthermore, donor organs cannot be recovered (procured) without family consent (unless there’s specific directives by the deceased that are in conflict that would override that decision).

This MedicineNet article also clearly defines that these are two separate procedures that are not in tandem with each other & why. It’s a clear explanation & a delineation that’s important to note & a gross omission from this piece as it stands.

The whole crux of this lawsuit period also could have been avoided with an advanced directive or living will. It implicitly asks the person what their wishes are.  This does not leave it to chance (or the family in the 11th hour).  Even if one cannot afford a lawyer (just for sake of argument) it can be done online yourself through services like LegalZoom or RocketLawyer.

While I feel for the son who obviously felt informed consent on the  autopsy wasn’t obtained, this segment is poorly researched & presented.  I am not defending Temple by default, merely pointing out that there are also protocols & procedures for organ recovery that are separate from  autopsy.

Here are the guidelines that are set forth in the recovery/procurement process by Gift of Life, (one procurement agency), so the process is also clear & outlined so one can be more informed how this process works in comparison with autopsy protocols. This also should have at least been linked to or mentioned in the article as well for clarity & balance.

I would have felt this way examining this article even if I wasn’t a candidate for potential transplant because of the shoddy journalism involved. I understand too that this was set to air on a brief TV segment at first with a companion article, but regardless, it’s poor journalism & doesn’t even tell any side of the story in its present form.  It’s not relentless pursuit of truth or investigative journalism. Sorry NBC10.


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