When faced with a choice between life and death, Canada's socialized medicine chooses death. Of course, that death is meant to be for someone else, not the 'ethicists' involved. Please see the emergency appeal on the right sidebar of this page for more information.
Public debate needed on transplant ethics
Thursday, March 24, 2005
As of yesterday afternoon, a Massachusetts organization (www.organdonors.com) claimed to have a total of 1,792 people lined up to at least consider donating an organ to a suitable recipient of their own choosing. In the age of the Internet, it was only a matter of time before the world of organ transplants would get its own dating service.
It was also only a matter of time before a match made in this little e-world would erupt in controversy at a major Canadian hospital. As it turns out, that hospital is Montreal's Royal Victoria, where authorities have decided to refuse Baruch Tegegne, 61, of Montreal, the kidney transplant he wants. Actually, the transplant that he needs. Tegegne is dying.
Buying and selling organs is illegal in Canada, and the Royal Vic says it fears quiet promises of money have been made to the potential donor, whom Tegegne's friends found in India through that Web site. At the same time, Michael Bergman, Tegegne's lawyer, is threatening to pursue legal action against the Royal Vic if it doesn't agree to conduct a tissue-compatibility test on the potential donor, identified as Shree Dhar.
This is a subtle issue. There is no way to prove that no money is changing hands, but there is also no way to prove that Dhar is not motivated by altruism.The Royal Vic says it is not opposed to donors choosing recipients where there is a blood relationship, or special emotional ties.
Dhar says he was moved by learning of Tegegne's role in helping spirit Jews out of Tegegne's native Ethiopia in the 1970s, an act of altruism documented by news reports and chronicled by a Toronto filmmaker. Dhar says Tegegne's account of difficult treks across the Sahara Desert reminded him of his own grandfather who, he says, died of kidney disease.
Fact? Fiction? Only Dhar (and maybe his neighbours) know for sure. If Dhar were from Israel rather than India, would his altruistic motives be any easier to accept at face value? On the other hand, wasn't the huge outpouring of donor generosity in Western nations after the Asian tsunami an indication that our notions of "emotional ties" are changing - and crossing traditional ethnic lines - in the era of the global village and modern communications?
There are no easy ethical answers here. At any rate, there's little chance that Canada, given its idealistic attitudes with respect to health care, is going to sanction the purchase of organs from Third World countries any time soon. On the other hand, about 3,000 Canadians stand to die soon without a kidney transplant. Don't they rate any ethical consideration?
Coming as it does in the same week as the Terri Schiavo case, the Tegegne story demonstrates vividly how medical science is creating regulatory/political/ethical issues that never troubled our grandparents. However Canadians feel about this issue, we should all at least agree with the Kidney Foundation of Canada, which says the Tegegne case shows the need for a fresh public debate on the issue of organ donations, including how to increase donations domestically.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2005
Otherwise, it says, the provincial waiting list [of 6 years!] needs to be respected.