6 years ago I received a successful liver transplant. For that, I shall be eternally grateful to the surgeons, doctors and wonderful nurses.
In the same ward as myself was a 35 years old alcoholic, he had been drinking up to 5 bottles of white lightning (cheap strong cider) per day. A thoroughly uncouth man, who was forever pressing the emergency button to call the nurse. He told me he was considered by the Doctors to be “high risk”, I myself had been classed as” low risk”.
Then he told me he had waited only 3 month on the waiting list. This made me think, as I myself had waited 9 month on the waiting list.
Why so long I wondered considering I was classed as “low risk” Plus this man had brought about his own problem. My problem was not caused by alcohol.
I began to think it was unfair, I felt like the alcoholic had been prioritised and I had, in effect been punished. So I questioned the Transplant coordinator but she could shed no light on my query.
This note discusses the ethics of who does and who doesn’t receive the life saving surgery. “oh” well at least I am alive now and shall be for years to come yet. I learned later the alcoholic died !!!
By Daniel Tippens
This is the first of what will be several rounds of dialogue between Dan Kaufman and Dan Tippens on “moralizing medicine.” As in a real conversation, each entry will consist of relatively short bursts of points and counterpoints that not only will keep the exchange moving, but will leave room for development of the relevant ideas in the comment threads that follow.
I have been concerned about the way in which we moralize medicine, and after several chats about the topic with my dear friend Dan Kaufman, I’ve decided to put down a few brief thoughts. My concern is with our occasional reliance on the concept of punishment in medical practice, and particularly with regard to organ transplantation. In the United States, organ scarcity is a serious problem. An estimated twenty-two people die each day, because we lack a sufficient number of organs to save them. Our…
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