… The truth behind organ donation & organ transplants
The Nasty Side of Organ Transplanting.
“When members of the family later investigate and find out, for instance, sometimes for the first time, that organs are taken while the heart still beats, or that the practice is to administer a general anesthetic to donors for the harvesting operation (which the relatives often interpret as implying the need to suppress capacity to feel pain indicating continued brain function), they may be extremely distressed and feel exploited.”
As stated above the hospital can legally remove organs and bones from a registered donor without next of kin consent. They won’t because societal consensus doesn’t hold that organ harvesting is wholly beneficial, or that the donors are completely dead, and harvesters dare not risk nasty reactions from next of kin. But medical technology requires increasing numbers of body parts and the industry players have become increasingly desperate to harvest and transplant more organs. Their representatives, such as Professor Geoffrey Dahlenburg, formerly of the South Australia Organ Donation Agency, once said that a “soft no” by relatives wasn't good enough. There had to be an undefined “strong objection” after some discussion between shocked relatives and desperate transplant coordinators in the hospital waiting room or wherever. Professor Dahlenburg said this back in 1997 and since then the attitude has become increasingly dismissive to the viewpoints of next of kin, especially in Australia and the United Kingdom.
The transplant coordinator will sidle up to the relatives in the waiting room and begin the sales pitch by expressing sympathy and hinting that good may come from this tragedy. If the patient isn’t dead the coordinator will leave and pressure hospital staff to get an apnoea and “brain death” test confirmation. If this happens preservation of organs may begin which may accelerate “brain death”.
The coordinator will return later with a continuing stream of ideas reinforcing the 'good from bad' theme, getting closer and closer to the punch line. If the dying or seriously injured patient registered as a donor the coordinator may mention the hospital isn’t legally required to obtain consent but are doing it from kindness. Their ploy is to undermine relatives’ confidence in their legal or moral status, and position the coordinator as a benevolent human. It’s usually bluff even if the coordinator has the strongest legal position.
Transplant coordinating staff and especially intensive care staff become the communicator of the prospective donor’s condition. Relatives depend on their messages and may feel obligated for this kindness. The coordinator may imply a closer and more intimate access to the patient than that of the relatives. They may try to mentally inveigle themselves between you and your dying relative. They may imply the patients’ dignity and comfort depends on you keeping them happy.
If the patient wasn’t a registered donor they may attempt to extract a statement from you that the patient had expressed a favourable opinion of organ donation, or at least didn’t object to it. This will give them a legal standpoint that the patient would not have objected to donating his or her organs and again, that seeking family approval is kindness on their part and not a requirement. The transplant coordinator will apply as much pressure as can be gotten away with. This will be disguised under the cover of caring emotions and kind thoughts, but the underlying motive is getting the organs and perhaps the whole body. It should be remembered that the coordinator and transplant staff are extremely desperate people. Relatives may experience their sales pitch as an unpleasant seduction attempt and subconsciously know there is an underlying motive yet it is still easy to become hypnotised.
Nurses may become involved and tell the harvest promoter to go easy. One faction in hospitals follows the Hippocratic oath of protecting and nurturing all injured patients while the other faction wants to help one group of patients by cutting up “hopeless cases” and using them as spare parts.
The position of Transplant Coordinator was invented in the United States after industry promoters discovered Intensive Care Unit staff were reluctant to seek harvest consent. Experts in the United States discovered the problem of low donation numbers due, not so much to public resistance, but with intensive care staff who wouldn’t ask relatives. It was even said some nurses and doctors disguised patient conditions from the transplant teams.
Australia still uses intensive care staff, predominantly, to seek harvest consent though this will become less necessary as organ donors who signed 2006 registration contracts come into affect and for which next of kin can no longer veto organ removal.
Anyone can repel harvester coordinators by threatening to hit them. A physically weak person can do this because the harvest coordinator wouldn’t dare be seen beating up a relative in the hospital waiting room especially while attempting to extract consent. Another tactic is by walking about the hospital telling patients and staff that the harvesters want to cut up your still breathing relative for spare parts. This desperate act would have a strong impact in making the coordinators back off. A secondary defensive action is to keep moving about. One should move about one’s body and limbs while seated or walk about the building to avoid the hypnotic stare of the coordinators. This will help protect you because your emotions and brain will be in shock and you may be vulnerable to the harvesters’ mesmerising voice and presence. Sitting still is like being a hypnotic subject. A third defensive action is calling the media. Newspapers and television stations feed on Frankenstein stories and you will be in the middle of a national story. The least effective tactic is intellectual argument. Transplant coordinators are desperate for victory and won’t hear a word you say. They are immune to logical argument.
Head injury patients may increase their recovery chances if their relatives insist, with witnesses present, that neither the apnoea test nor any treatment designed to preserve organs for harvest be applied. Stating the patient won’t be a donor and had recently expressed distaste for donation will reduce interest from the harvest team. You might also suggest that hypothermia and barbiturate treatment be used to protect the injured brain.
You can also insist on visiting the patient in privacy without medical observation. You can insist on observing the apnoea procedure. You may also insist it not be performed. Reflex testing is shocking because the doctor inflicts pain to prompt response. You could also require that two flat EEGs be obtained and “brain death” not declared unless there is a blood pressure collapse.
Elephants, hippopotami and other less evolved animals protect dying members of their species from predators until they are completely dead. Only when all life has left the animal and decomposition sets in do they abandon further vigil. We also protect our dying next of kin and, sadly, in some situations, it is from our own species.
A patient declared “brain dead” with a beating heart hasn’t any legal rights. This means many of the patient’s directives on treating their injured body are not legally binding. Power of Attorney or Advance Medical Directives allow you determine medical treatment prior to death and when you may be unconscious. The contrived “brain death” criteria may erase these orders because you’re legally dead and Advance Medical Directives generally cover a living person. The fact that part of your brain is alive and your body quite alive make no difference to the harvest crowd.
At this point closest friends or relatives face difficulties in directing treatment because you are dead or, so the medical authorities will say. Certain conditions for treating the body can be left in a will but it will be days until this is read. Until then the “brain dead” patient in a hospital is at the mercy of staff who may want to harvest parts while the patient is still warm, pliable and with normal blood circulation mediated by the brain.
More sinister is the concept that our bodies are owned by the species as a whole and not by us as individuals, an apparently benevolent concept until one investigates the motives for promoting it. The organ donation industry want us to think we own our bodies until our health deteriorates then, like a Microsoft Application ― we have sudden become mere licensees. This is the mentality we are dealing with.
The legal key to protecting yourself from harvesting is by ensuring people know you are an organ keeper. You might tell your legal advocates and donation agencies that you require an intact body for burial or cremation. Writing “organ keeper” or “organ retainer” on your documents helps. I put “organ keeper, no harvesting, thanks” on the back of my car. This angers donation agencies but they've brought in on themselves by making it very difficult to register a “no harvesting” decision on government donation data bases.
The Australian Organ Donor Register is the computer database available nationally to medical and transplant promoters. It is designed to allow medical staff to identify prospective donors immediately on arrival at a hospital. Organ keepers can also register their choice on this Register. This is an encouraging development that should be followed around the world. It isn't failsafe though because one cannot be fully assured that the register won’t be changed before “harvest day”. The problem is that the registration form is essentially for donors. One must complete the whole donor form, giving Medicare card number and personal details as if one is an organ donor, then tick a tiny box that indicates organ keeper. This leaves one vulnerable to a harvest agent who change that single box to make one a registered harvest candidate. It would more likely, though, be changed through error by a bureaucrat processing dozens of organ donation contracts per shift and not noticing the exception.
A safer system would be having two separate databases with separate staff. An organ keeper would complete an organ keeper form and a harvest candidate would fill out a donation form.
The Australian Organ Donor Register’s 2006 paper application form has changed with the inclusion of a checklist of organs that can be donated. This replaces two tiny lines on the old form where the donor could list parts he or she did not want to donate, and where one could easily miss something out. The new form is better though still uses euphemisms like “eye tissue” for eyes and “skin tissue” for skin. The only indirect mention that the donor’s heart will be beating during the sawing and cutting process is the line: “In some cases organ donation may be possible after a person’s heart has stopped beating, but this is rare.” They don't use clear language because people might abandon donation in droves.
The most deceptive aspect of this new application form is not telling prospective donors that relatives can no longer veto donation. This means many older people might update their details not realising that their partner or next of kin will no longer play a controlling or protecting role in their dying and donation process. Next of kin have been demoted to “…an important part…”
Such deceptive language restricts informed choice and doesn't inspire trust. If governments do this at the propaganda and bureaucratic level, while we are alive, one can only imagine what happens to us when “brain-injured", lying on the harvest table, and when relatives have been excluded.
But what adds insult to injury is the first section of the form. On the previous donation consent form the person signs under the words “I wish to record my donor status on the Australian Organ Donor Register.” On the new form this has been replaced with, “Please register me on the Australian Organ Donor Register.” A command by the donor has been replaced with a request. This represents a major power shift where the generous organ donor is now treated as a supplicant.
You may find further protection in the coercive political environment of organ transplanting by carrying an organ retainer or organ keeper card.
Carrying a card signifying your intention to keep organs and body parts intact before and after death will generally be respected by hospitals. It will help to keep multiple cards, one in your wallet with Medicare or health insurance cards and others scattered throughout your worldly possessions. You can state your organ keeper intentions and, though this isn’t necessary, get a witness to sign your card. Homemade cards are valid or you can list your preferences using prepared cards from any country in the world. Your stated intention in writing is the significant factor rather than who prints the card. A card signifies your intentions so either a homemade card or any statement in writing is applicable in any country. We hope.
These simple cards are available from The Nasty Side of Organ Transplanting.
The Japanese Organ Transplant Network distributes free cards in English or Japanese. Their unique card has three levels of intention, “brain death” donation, cardiac death (complete death) donation or “I do not want to donate”. Most Japanese find organ harvesting a repulsive and spiritually dangerous activity thus three choices was the most intrusive legislation their transplant industry could get from the government. It is important to circle your choice with a scratch and then ink over the scratch. You might scratch out other choices to prevent changes by pro-harvest medical staff. Their cards have only a section for a signature so scratching your name and inking it over seems preferable to depending solely on a signature. You can add more precise instructions by attaching a piece of card or paper to the official card. These free cards can be ordered by email from their website.
Duane Horton is an engineer and entrepreneur from Rhode Island, USA. He advocates paying donors and their families. Duane says organ donating would increase if the rights of organ donors were improved and encourages prospective donors to go on strike until governments improve conditions. Duane Horton is one of the world’s leading donor rights activists.
Duane publishes his trade marked OrganKeeper card that signifies the holder wants to retain organs upon “brain death” and real death. There are six choices each explaining why the signer is opposed to organ donation. These are:
A last section is blank so you can add your own reasons. You can print the cards from his website. 
The benefit of Organ keeper and Organ Retainer Cards is that the signer retains control of the printed information and may duplicate it for protection. Those who sign as organ retainers on electronic registers cede control of their statement to pro-transplant bureaucrats.
Giving Power of Attorney to a person chosen by yourself protects your body from transplant harvesters. Power of Attorney allows your representative to represent your interests when you're unconscious. You should have a note on your person naming your representative.
Tattoos are a permanent form of registering your organkeeper intentions. A harvest surgeon might be reluctant to slit up the torso of someone with Organ Keeper tattooed in big letters across his or her body. It could also be a problem if you change your mind.
Organ Keeper Cards are an anti-dote to Donor Cards, the latter perhaps signed without thought, and in the midst of a promotional talk by harvest agents. Dated organ keeper cards can also counteract your having signed a donor card or an electronic register then forgotten and later changed one’s mind. Organ Donor Cards are often signed without too much thought but they are serious documents that have serious ramifications. Dr David Hill has observed,
"People may well sign out of commendable altruism but in complete ignorance, but this Card [Donor Card] has legal force and the status of an advanced directive.”
 Tonti-Filippini, Nicholas. Revising Brain Death: Cultural Imperialism,
Linacre Quarterly. Boston. May 1998
The author served as health care ethicist for eight years at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia
Accessed 3 May 2007