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Tag: Organ Donation

The Lifesaving(?) Technology of Facebook

When most of us think about Facebook, the first phrase that comes to mind probably isn’t “good Samaritan.”  Facebook is an easy way to keep in touch with friends, and it can be a gigantic time-suck, for sure, but last week the site did something that could truly benefit a lot of people. On May 1, Facebook launched an initiative to encourage users to become organ donors, and within 24 hours there had been a spike in the number of people volunteering their body parts for the good of others.

California’s registry saw almost two months’ worth of people sign up within the first day after the Facebook put up the feature.

Organ transplantation is one of the miracles of modern medicine, but there simply aren’t enough organs to go around for all the patients who need them. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are 72,900 people on active lists waiting for an organ. Compare that number to the 2,263 transplants that took place between January 2011 – 2012. Last year, more than 6,000 people died waiting for an organ.Obviously, increasing the number of organ donors could have a huge impact on the number of transplants – and on the lives of thousands of people.

Why don’t more people become donors? Some object on religious grounds, but the biggest obstacle is inertia. Most of us who sign up to be organ donors (I’m one of them) do so when we renew our driver’s license, by checking a box on a form saying we want to donate our organs. If you don’t mark the form, it’s assumed you don’t want to donate. Most people only encounter this choice every few years, when their driver’s license is up for renewal, and it’s hard to think about such a decision while standing at a Department of Motor Vehicles counter.

Some countries, such as Spain, Australia and Germany, have opt-out systems. It’s assumed that you are willing to donate unless you’ve said you prefer not to. Rates of donation in those countries are sometimes higher than in the US, although some presumed-consent countries have much lower rates. (Factors other than the number of donors, like the availability of surgical facilities and transplant surgeons, can affect the number of actual transplants in different countries.)

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Organ Donors Shouldn’t Be Penalized

It can be challenging to find an organ donor for someone who needs a transplant. But when a donor and desperately sick person are matched up, living donors should not be “punished” for their gift, especially by the health insurance industry.

This is a little-known aspect of the health care debate that should be brought to light — the fact that there is nothing that prevents health insurance companies from either denying coverage or charging higher premiums to those who donate an organ by categorizing them as people with “pre-existing conditions.”

This lack of regulation makes it potentially difficult for donors to get health insurance after giving the gift of life.

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California transplant surgeon acquitted

A jury acquitted a San Francisco transplant surgeon Thursday of criminal charges
related to his alleged actions during an attempted organ harvest nearly three years ago in a small town on California’s central coast.

In what’s thought to be the first case of its kind in the United States, prosecutors accused surgeon Hootan Roozrokh of ordering excessive amounts of painkillers to hasten the death of a potential organ donor.

The not-guilty verdict relieved the
transplant community, which feared the case would have chilling effects
on the public’s willingness to donate organs and surgeons’ willingness
to participate in the rarer type of donation done in this case, called
donation after cardiac death or DCD.

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Prosecution in organ harvest case faces hurdles at trial

Although neither the prosecution nor defense has shown its entire case, the unusually long eight-day preliminary319roozrokhruling_2
hearing for transplant surgeon Hootan Roozrokh revealed considerable details about what happened during Ruben Navarro’s final hours and the hurdles both sides must overcome at trial.

San Luis Obispo County prosecutors jumped their final pretrial hurdle March 19, when a judge ruled that a jury would decide whether Roozrokh committed dependent adult abuse Feb. 3 and 4, 2006, at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.

Never before in the United States has a transplant surgeon been tried criminally under similar circumstances, and the transplant and medical communities have followed the case closely. No trial date has been set, but if the preliminary hearing is any indication, the trial likely will be lengthy with many witnesses and substantial expert testimony.

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Criminal charges filed against transplant surgeon

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Prosecutors in a small town on California’s Central Coast are making history. For the first time in the United States, they brought criminal charges against a transplant surgeon, alleging he prescribed excessive amounts of medication in an attempt to hasten a disabled man’s death and harvest his organs. The case cleared its final pretrial hurdle Wednesday and will now go before a jury later this year.

San Francisco surgeon Hootan Roozrokh faces one felony charge of dependent adult abuse, for which the maximum punishment is four years in prison. Roozrokh, 34, has pleaded not guilty and his attorney, M. Gerald Schwartzbach said his client looks forward to clearing his name at trial.

The Roozrokh case has attracted much national attentionand raises worrisome questions about whether the transplant community is pressing too hard to increase the nation’s organ supply, thereby creating situations ripe for blurring ethical boundaries, such as this one.

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