Donor network ‘pressured medics to declare patients dead so organs can be harvested’

‘This kid is dead, you got that?’ Donor network ‘pressured medics to declare  patients dead so organs can be harvested’

  • The New York Organ Donor Network accused of  bullying doctors into declaring patients brain dead when they are still alive so  they can strip them of their organs
  • Whistleblower Patrick McMahon says one in  five patients are showing signs of brain activity when they’re cut  up
  • Donor network earns ‘millions and millions’  from selling everything from hearts to skin and eyes to hospitals and insurance  companies
  • Staff required to meet quotas for organs and  can qualify for Christmas bonuses if they convince enough families to  donate

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:09:05 EST, 26  September 2012| UPDATED:17:55 EST, 26 September 2012

Plaintiff: Patrick McMahon, pictured, is suing the donor network for sacking him because he spoke out 

Plaintiff: Patrick McMahon, pictured, is suing the donor  network for sacking him because he spoke out

New York hospitals are routinely ‘harvesting’  organs from patients before they’re even dead, an explosive lawsuit is  claiming.

The suit accuses transplant non-profit The  New York Organ Donor Network of bullying doctors into declaring patients brain  dead when they are still alive.

Plaintiff, Patrick McMahon, 50, reckons one  in five patients is showing signs of brain activity when surgeons declare them  dead and start hacking out their body parts.

‘They’re playing God,’ said McMahon, a former  transplant coordinator who claims he was fired just four months into the role  for speaking out about the practice.

He said that the donor network makes  ‘millions and millions’ from selling the organs they obtain to hospitals and to  insurance companies for transplants.

‘Hearts, lungs, kidneys, joints, bones, skin  graphs, intestines, valves, eyes — it’s all big money,’ he said.

The Air Force Combat veteran and former nurse added that  financially strained hospitals are easily influenced to declare a patient brain  dead because they’re keen to free up bed space.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court  on Tuesday, cites a 19-year-old car crash victim who was still struggling to  breathe and showing signs of brain activity when doctors gave the green light  for his organs to be harvested.

Network officials including director Michael  Goldstein allegedly bullied Nassau University Medical Center staff into  declaring the teen dead, stating during a conference call: ‘This kid is dead,  you got that?’

But McMahon said  he believed the 19-year-old could have recovered.

CEO: The network's CEO and president, Helen Irving, pictured, is mentioned in the lawsuit 

CEO: The network’s CEO and president, Helen Irving,  pictured, is mentioned in the lawsuit

Bully: Network dirctor Michael Goldstein, pictured, is accused of saying 'this kid is dead, you got that?' 

Bully: Network dirctor Michael Goldstein, pictured, is  accused of saying ‘this kid is dead, you got that?’

 

The lawsuit cites three other examples of  patients who were still clinging  to life when doctors gave a ‘note’ – an  official declaration by a  hospital that a patient is brain dead, which, as well  as consent from  next of kin, is required before a transplant can take  place.

The suit claims that a man was admitted to  Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, a month later, again showing brain  activity.

It claims McMahon protested but was  blown  off by hospital and donor network staff, and the man was declared  brain dead  and his organs harvested.

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.

‘She was having brain function when  they  were cutting into her on the table,’ McMahon told MailOnline. ‘He  had given her  a paralyser and there’s no reason to give someone who is  dead a  paralyser.’

He said he confronted the person who gave it  to her and he was speechless.

Lawsuit: The suit claims a 19-year-old car crash victim was still alive when doctors at Nassau University Medical Center, pictured, declared him brain deadLawsuit: The suit claims a 19-year-old car crash victim  was still alive when doctors at Nassau University Medical Center, pictured,  declared him brain dead

‘Finally he said he was told to do it because  while they were cutting her chest open she was moving her chest around. And a  paralyser only paralyses you, it does nothing for the pain,’ he said.

McMahon added that surgeons ‘took everything’  with regards to body parts.

‘They took her eyes, her joints. She was  right there when I was having the conversation. They were inserting the plastic  bones where the real ones had been.’

According to the lawsuit, when  McMahon probed further on the disturbing  case another network employee told hospital staff he was ‘an untrained  troublemaker with a history of raising frivolous issues and  questions.’

‘I had a reputation for raising a red flag,’  he said.

McMahon has accused the donor network of  having a ‘quota’ system and hiring ‘coaches’ to teach staff how to  be more  persuasive in convincing family members to give consent to organ donation.

He said ‘counselling’ staff are like sales  teams who are pressured to meet targets and threatened with the loss of their  jobs if they fall short.

‘If you don’t meet the quotas then you’ll get  fired – that’s a fact. I saw it happen,’ he said.

‘You’re not there for grief  counselling,  you’re there to get organs. It’s all about sales — and  that’s pretty much a  direct quote from the organisation. Counsellors are required to get a 30 per  cent consent rate from families.’

Lawsuit: The New York Organ Donor Network has been accused of bullying hospitals into declaring patients brain dead when they're still alive so organs can be harvested (stock photo)Lawsuit: The New York Organ Donor Network has been  accused of bullying hospitals into declaring patients brain dead when they’re  still alive so organs can be harvested (stock photo)

McMahon added that staff members who collect  the most organs throughout the year qualify for a Christmas bonus.

‘If counselors do well by getting a lot of  organs they are given a bonus in December,’ he said.

The veteran – who worked at the donor network  between July and November last year – said there are about 30-40 staff who are  out in the field, going to hospitals and trying to get signatures and  donations.

He said other workers concentrate on managing  the candidates or the patients who are brain dead.

McMahon claims that on November 4, he told  the network’s CEO and president, Helen Irving, that ‘one in five patients  declared brain dead show signs of brain activity at the time the Note is  issued.’

But the suit says, she replied: ‘This is how  things are done.’

He told MailOnline the next day he was  sacked.

‘My job was to make sure people were doing  things right and when I spoke up I got punished,’ he said. ‘It was disgusting to  me. There was such complacency and a lack of concern. They say ‘these organs  save people’ but what if that person was alive. I witnessed the fact they were  alive.’

The network could not be reached by  MailOnline for comment but spokesman Julia Rivera told The New York Post that  McMahon’s claims of a quota system were ‘ridiculous. There are no  quotas.

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