Asymmetrical Information - Megan McArdle

10.24.12

The Mistakes We Make

When brain-dead people aren't

A woman in Denmark was mistakenly declared brain dead, and almost became an organ donor:  

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.  

Think about this the next time you hear that some problem can be neatly resolved by appointing a panel of experts.  Had they killed this woman and harvested her organs, they would have saved a lot of lives.  But even if they didn't know it, they still would have killed someone with a chance to live.  Experts make mistakesand in cases like this the mistakes seem to tend in the direction of privileging the able over the disabled, the strong over the voiceless.