Unethical behavior on Grey’s Anatomy

February 13, 2009 by  
Filed under For Patients & Families

This won’t be the first or last time I will need to comment on unethical behavior on medical shows.

I am never surprised to see unethical medical behavior on television but I worry that the general public will think that this is how medicine is done.

Grey’s Anatomy had an episode last week in which one doctor went to speak to a patient’s loved one about donating their organs to a young boy who was dying. That would never happen in a non-TV hospital because doctors are not allowed to speak to the family about organ donation.

The only person who should be talking to the family is the representative from the local organ procurement agency. This protects doctors from having a conflict of interest by having to be both the person who is trying to save the patient and the person trying to take the organs after the death.

Another unethical thing that happened was what occurred after the doctor asked the wife for her husband’s organs and the wife said “no”.

Since other organs weren’t available for the dying boy, the doctor went back and put more pressure on the wife. This wouldn’t happen either. In medicine, we are supposed to respect people’s decisions, especially when they say no. Organ donation can not be a coercive process. You can ask, but you can’t push or force people to decide to donate their organs.

To make sure your family isn’t put in this situation without knowing your wishes, make sure you tell people what you would want in that situation. If you want to donate your organs after your death, then register your wishes with your local department of motor vehicles either online or in person. If you don’t want to donate, then you should write that down in your advance healthcare directive.

I believe in organ donation because organ donation saves lives. Maybe someday it will save yours.

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