The vegetative state and the miracle of science.

While there is promise with “fMRI” brain scans and other technology that have allowed rare communication with patients trapped inside an unresponsive body, the reality is that “[o]nce someone loses consciousness indefinitely, hospitals and insurers seem to want nothing to do with them…”

Well, maybe hospitals may want to do something with them.  The thorny issue of organ harvesting from those unfortunate to be in a vegetative state or in a coma poses an ethical dilemma.  A couple of years ago I wrote my thoughts about organ donation:

Sounds so altruistic…  why would anyone want to deprive someone whose life is being shortened by the bad condition of their own organs, if we can become organ donors just by checking a box in our driver’s license?  After all, if I were to make such a decision, my organs would only be removed after I died, so I wouldn’t feel the pain, suffer in the least, and my family would live with the knowledge that in my death I was able to extend someone else’s life, right?

What a noble thought, and, considering the shortage of viable organs for such donations, how poignant that we don’t have many more making such a sublime gift.

I used to think this way.  But, lately, I have discovered that I, like the public at large, have been completely misinformed as to what really goes on when organs are donated.

On the one hand, I, the donor, may not necessarily be a dead, non-breathing, cadaver… I, the donor,  may actually look like a body that is asleep, and have a ticking heart.   On the other hand, I, the donor, may be a corpse that, through the marvels of science, can be made to look like I am coming back from the dead, giving false hopes to my family.

If I check out that little box in the driver’s license to be an organ donor and I end up in a hospital declared brain dead or any sort of dead, I am at the mercy of the hospital and doctors, who will decide when to declare me dead, and when and how to extract all my organs.  That’s fine and dandy if hospital staff and doctors have the same approach to life and death that I do.

But, what if they don’t value life or see life in the same light as I do?  What if they start seeing me as just a convenient pod, from which to harvest a very lucrative set of commodities?  There lies the rub.


About Barbara Dillon Hillas

Mother of global nomads; wife of diplomat; peripatetic lawyer; annotator of foreign service life, rule of law, culture, travel, & whatever strikes my fancy.
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