Doctors are being pressured to harvest organs from patients who aren’t dead yet, a lawsuit in America claims.
Patrick McMahon, a former transplant co-ordinator, believes one-in-five patients declared dead are showing signs of brain activity.
Mr McMahon, 50, a United States Air Force veteran and former nurse, accused the New York Organ Donor Network of “playing God” by pressuring doctors to declare people dead.
He says he was fired four months into the coordinator role for speaking against the system.
The lawsuit accuses the state-funded network of employing ‘counselling’ staff to lean heavily on the next of kin to consent to organ removal, and risk being fired if they fail to meet targets.
The lawsuit cites a 19-year-old car accident victim who was still trying to breathe and showed signs of brain activity when he was declared brain dead and his organs were harvested.
Mr McMahon believes the man could have recovered.
Three other cases of improper organ harvesting are being cited in the lawsuit which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
One involves a woman who was declared brain dead when Mr McMahon realised her body was still jerking and she was being given “a paralysing anaesthetic”, the suit claims.
Mr McMahon, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan said: “I worked on massive brain injuries, trauma, gunshot wounds, IEDs. I have seen worse cases than this and the victims recover.”
Mr McMahon says, when he told the head of the donor network that one in five patients declared brain dead show signs of brain activity, the reply came “This is how things are done.”
Spokeswoman for the New York Organ Donor Network Julia Rivera said claims of a quota system were “ridiculous” and only doctors can declare a patient brain dead.
Earlier this year, the British Medical Association called for brain dead patients to be kept on life support so their organs can be harvested.
In 2008, French newspaper Le Monde ran an article about a 45-year-old Parisian who began to show signs of life just as transplant surgeons were about to harvest his organs after failing to resuscitate him.