There’s nothing like the opportunity to do some death and dismemberment to bring out all sorts of libertarian-sounding talk from people who ordinarily would be quite the opposite. We got a lot of this during the embryonic stem cell debates.
Here’s a different instance from Thursday’s WSJ, in an article titled, “New limits debated for organ donation: Transplant group proposes barring donors who have certain health problems; balancing risk vs. need.”
These two paragraphs are a decent summary of the conflict:
The debate reflects a tension between the need for organ donors and concerns that doctors may be lowering standards for living donors too far or failing to catch problems that could put the donor at unacceptable risk. Many transplant programs now allow people to donate who would have been screened out a few years ago, including those who are obese or have high blood pressure or diabetes.
Often marginally qualified donors demand to be approved, contending the choice is their own to accept the risk when someone they love needs a transplant. Transplant surgeons have also loosened standards for deceased donors, accepting, for instance, organs from much older dead donors than ever before.
I suppose it doesn’t help that I’ve read of allegations of organ harvesting from China, where unwilling victims have possibly been killed in order to harvest their organs to be sold to wealthy foreigners. Listening to how these U.S. transplant doctors are opposed to limits on what they do makes the possibility seem not so far fetched. I don’t think I want to be caught alone in a dark alley with these guys.
Here is where it starts to get spooky:
But some surgeons worry that insurance companies or juries will use the guidelines to penalize doctors who don’t follow them. Moreover, critics say that UNOS shouldn’t be telling doctors how to practice medicine.
(UNOS is the United Network for Organ Sharing.)
As for telling doctors how to practice medicine, that’s not really an accurate way of describing what UNOS is doing. UNOS is attempting to define limits. It is telling doctors what NOT to do, not what should be done.
And is it so far-fetched to think that limits might be needed? Do doctors always have others’ interests foremost? How about this, from Wednesday’s WSJ:
…Federal Medicare officials want to crack down on arrangements like the one that was planned in Gainesville, where doctors refer patients to businesses in which they have a financial stake.
In recent years, many physicians have become wealthy by investing in magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, facilities, surgery centers and diagnostic sites — and then sending their patients to them. A recent McKinsey & Co. study pegged doctors’ profits from this practice, known as self-referral, at $8 billion a year.