Death and Donation – a book review
Henderson, D. Scott. Death and Donation: Rethinking Brain Death as a Means for Procuring Transplantable Organs. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011.
D. Scott Henderson is Assistant Professor of Bioethics at Luther Rice University and Seminary. He has worked in hospitals in Ohio and Pennsylvania as an in-service lecturer and policy writer and was an adviser and research assistant for the inception of Franciscan University’s Institute of Bioethics in Steubenville, OH. He holds a B.A., Florida Bible College; M.A.A., Southern Evangelical Seminary; M.A., Franciscan University of Steubenville; and Ph.D., Duquesne University. Dr. Henderson joined Luther Rice University’s faculty in the fall of 2008. He teaches courses in apologetics, philosophy and ethics. Dr. Henderson has spoken on numerous topics in apologetics and bioethics at various venues and was a contributor to Norman Geisler’s Baker’s Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics and Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. He has also lectured at LCC International University in Klaipeda, Lithuania and at the Ewangelikalna Wyzsza Szkola Teologiczna in Wroclaw, Poland.
The issue of organ donation has been a hot topic for the past 15-20 years. Dr. Henderson provides a depth of research and insight into the issue and the ethics behind the procedure. There are some major ethical issues that arise throughout the text. Henderson builds a tremendous case that causes one to realize the issue demands some serious consideration.
The case is built from the beginning to inform the reader the background information on brain death and the origins of transplantation of organs. Henderson clearly develops an ethical concern over the definition of death. He contends there is a major difference in the definition of a brain dead patient from state to state. The lack of consistency in the standard for the patient, can literally mean life or death depending on what state he/she is a patient. Henderson continues to paint a picture of concern medically, socially, and philosophically throughout the text.
There are some major ethical considerations when it comes to death and donation. Henderson makes some shocking details about procuring organs. According to research, he states paralyzing anesthesia are used to harvest organs. In brain death patients, fresher organs are best. So, the patient still has a beating heart. The procedure is technically the cause of death. He goes further to say the drugs are needed for the procedure because the patients will typically react during the procedure. He gives some fascinating evidence and research to these occurrences. This claim has astounding ethical implications.
The next ethical claim deals with reasonable informed consent. We have all been in the Driver’s License office and they ask if you want to be a donor or you check a box. There is little to no information on location as to what that entails. The clerk/officer gives no information and it is suggested not equipped to give detail information on just what being a donor entails. There is likely a link for you to look up when you get home, which will most likely not happen. This issue was actually the basis a recent episode of the TV show Monday Mornings on TNT. Most people do not realize the hospital can take anything they want/need. Hospitals can take any organ with or without notice upon consent. For example, you can be told a lung and a kidney will be taken. It is permissible for all organs to be procured, even skin and ligaments. Henderson even claims hospitals can make money on selling certain items. He even explains a case where a hip socket was taken from a patient without the family realizing until later. Few people realize the hospital is permitted to perform practice techniques on donated bodies. Henderson draws the conclusion it is highly unlikely that the average donor and their family realizes this is what they are giving consent. There is the ethical question for what ought to be done, consented to, and information provided by the hospital. The legal question remains, is informed consent actually being given?
The Sanctity of Life is an increasingly controversial topic, both in the beginning and the end. I have previously contended that the Family Care Act will influence these issues going forward. Many patients are on waiting lists for transplant and transplants can be greatly beneficial. Henderson contends that more care needs to be given that the donor is actually dead for procurement.
It is imperative that we give a logical and reasonable look into the ethics of end of life issues. Dr. Henderson gives great insight into the issue of death and donation. Death and Donation is a good read for anybody that has been asked to check a box for donation and a must read for those that have checked that box.