1 Department of Public Health, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet3 Section of Health Services Research, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet4 Section of Health Services Research, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet
Professional work ethics as a perspective on 'aggressive organ harvesting'
Occasionally brain-dead organ donors go into cardiac arrest before reaching the operating theater. In such cases, the needed resuscitation of the potential donor stimulates a range of concerns among the responsible staff. If the intensive care unit staff are going to carry out the organ retrieval, they must rush in with demanding treatment measures such as defibrillation shock and cardiac massage that may break breast bones and make the donor vomit. Such treatment measures conflict with widespread ideals of tranquility in donor care and yet they are currently under consideration in Danish intensive care units. Why is this type of ‘aggressive organ harvesting’, as it is sometimes called, considered a likely development, even to the extent that the interviewed health professionals request a policy prescribing procurement measures they morally deplore? We suggest that to understand this change of treatment norms, we must move close to everyday work practices and appreciate the importance of material–technical treatment options as well as the interplay of professional ethics and identity. The cardiac treatment of brain-dead donors may thereby illuminate how treatment norms develop on the ground and thus can theoretically develop our understanding of the mechanisms associated with increasingly ‘aggressive organ harvesting’.
Social Studies of Science, 2013, Vol 43/4, Issue DOI: 10.1177/0306312712460341, p. 598-618