I read an article back in September about a Nurse Practitioner, Patrick McMahon, filing charges against the organ donation network in New York. He claimed the network’s staffers pressured hospital staff to declare patients brain dead, and that the network hired coaches to train hospital staffers in how to be more persuasive when asking for a donation.
I couldn’t help but admire him because even as he blew the whistle on what he saw as wrong practices, he knew the negative publicity would slam him. Yes, he got slam-dunked. Apparently, some people felt he was only a nurse and not qualified to judge the decisions of doctors. He gave several examples of what he observed, and I found one especially disturbing.
In November 2011, a woman admitted to Staten Island University Hospital after a drug overdose was declared brain dead and her organs were about to be harvested when McMahon noticed that she was being given “a paralyzing anesthetic” because her body was still jerking.
A paralyzing anesthetic subdues a person and stops all movement, but they can hear and think. He hints if she was really brain dead would she need such a drug? McMahon is a NP and before making such charges, I’m sure he checked the medical records before going public. At least I hope he did. It will be some time before the case goes to court.
While I realize organ donation has saved lives, does that mean we should dismiss charges of people so disgusted by what they’ve seen from the inside that they have no recourse but to blow the whistle? Another thing I’d like to point out that’s peculiar to nurses. Nurses have a strange mindset; we self report incidents that we know will get us fired. We’re professionals and we care about patients because they’re vulnerable. That’s why Mr. McMahon’s story bothered me.
As a nurse, I had to attend CE classess on organ donation where it was routine to discuss ways to tactfully ask grieving family members for their loved ones organs. So, I don’t find his charges of “coaching” to be odd. I think its common. I took part in a few organ donations, but only had one that was hellish. An abused toddler transferred by Life Flight as an organ donor. Thankfully, the parents didn’t get away with murder by signing him up to be a total organ donor. It came close, too close, and I had nightmares about it.
Last Thursday, I watched the TV show Elementary starring Jonny Miller and Lucy Lieu. I’ve enjoyed the show, but this scene creeped me out. The scene opened with the Sherlock character sitting astride a corpse and choking it. Then he took pictures of the bruising with his phone. Sherlock then turned another corpse over on its stomach and then proceeded to choke and try to snap the neck. He explains to his disgusted side kick, Watson, that its not corpse abuse. It’s important to his work which is solving crimes. The really low point came when he added the corpses wouldn’t care because they had donated their bodies to MEDICAL SCIENCE.
Hello, Sherlock and show writers. What the Sherlock character was doing isn’t medical science. I wondered if anyone besides me picked up on that? I wonder how many potential organ donors or whole body donors saw that episode and said, “Nah, Honey, I don’t want to be an organ donor anymore.”
Why am I comparing an actor in a TV show to a nurse practitioner in a hospital with real organ donors? Sadly, I suspect more people would believe what the actor was doing fell under the realm of medical science while the claims of the nurse whistleblower is fiction.