Denmark shocked by story of brain-dead donor’s recovery
The world of organ donation in Denmark is in turmoil. A documentary was aired earlier this month which showed family members reacting in anguish to the news that their 19-year-old daughter was brain dead after a car accident, agreeing to donate her organs and allowing doctors to turn off her respirator. About 1.7 million viewers tuned in to the heart-rending drama.
But Carina Melchior did not die after her respirator was removed. She is now undergoing rehabilitation and may make a full recovery. About 500 people immediately removed their names from Denmark’s organ donor register.
Doctors at Aarhus University Hospital were embarrassed by the incident. “We are overjoyed that the young woman survived and that she is moving on after the accident,” Claus Thomsen, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said. "But we made a mistake underway and made the family believe that their daughter and sister would die.”
The hospital acknowledged that the question of organ donation should not have been raised as there were no unambiguous signs that brain death would occur.
This is very serious business. It is absolutely essential that the integrity and accuracy of the process used to determine brain death be impeccable. Removal of organs from a person who is not yet dead is homicide.
Organ donation is a wonderful thing and has saved countless lives, but organs may only be harvested from dead people and with consent. I have participated in this process hundreds of times, and we are very careful to make sure the diagnosis of brain death is accurate and that the family is fully informed of the situation so that they can make an informed decision.
This egregious and very public error will seriously harm efforts to obtain organs for people who need them, and it almost cost this young lady her life.
Please pray for her speedy recovery, and please pray for wisdom and prudence for our doctors and for all who participate in the life-saving organ donation process.