‘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
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
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
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.
‘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.’
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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