Peace for child’s griev­ing par­ents

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

Re “Or­gan donor’s death probed,” June 12

As a mother who lost a child, I can only feel a par­ent’s pain of loss once again read­ing about the ac­cu­sa­tion that an anes­the­si­ol­o­gist has­tened a veg­e­ta­tive child’s death so his or­gans could be har­vested.

There is much crime in the world that de­serves dogged pur­suit by de­tec­tives, but the ef­fort of reg­is­tered nurse Denise Ber­tone, a Los An­ge­les County coro­ner’s in­ves­ti­ga­tor who ex­am­ines child deaths, is over the line. Her ex­per­tise has been ar-es­ource for many cases and a relief, I’m sure, to many par­ents. Still, nearly ev­ery minute of ev­ery day, I wres­tle with the feel­ing of guilt for not hav­ing done enough to save my child.

I feel for Cole Hart­man’s fam­ily and Dr. Ju­dith Brill, the physi­cian whose care of the dy­ing 8-year-old was flagged for in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Ber­tone. No one in their right mind wants to lose a child, and no par­ent wants

Or­gan do­na­tion af­ter car­diac death ver­sus brain death is a com­plex is­sue. Many val­ues are in ten­sion, in­clud­ing mak­ing cer­tain the pa­tient is “dead” in or­der to re­spect that in­di­vid­ual and not to “kill” him or her or has­ten death for or­gan har­vest­ing.

A ben­e­fits-bur­den com­par­i­son, in­formed con­sent and re­spect for hu­man dig­nity are the pri­mary fac­tors in de­cid­ing whether to con­tinue or forgo life-sus­tain­ing med­i­cal treat­ment. Where there’s a gray area, some may see a way to un­fairly ma­nip­u­late the de­ci­sion to with­draw treat­ment to fa­vor a po­ten­tial or­gan re­cip­i­ent.

Cole Hart­man’s case in­volv­ing a per­sis­tent veg­e­ta­tive state should in­clude con­sid­er­a­tion of the sanc­tity of life ver­sus qual­ity of life. Richard Boudreau, MD

Marina del Rey The writer is a bioethi­cist at Loy­ola Mary­mount Univer­sity.

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