Recently, I watched a rerun of CSI. The Las Vegas one, of course, I'm no great fan of either David Caruso or Gary Sinise. But oh, that William Peterson. I just love nerdy guys. Which always gives my husband pause, as in, "hey, that must mean...". Sorry Honey.
Anyway, on this rerun, called "The Organ Grinder", a guy is found dead, yada, yada, bad guys, etc, etc but the guy was poisoned to death and it is IMPERATIVE that his organs be used in the investigation. Except that he was an organ donor. Aaagghhhh! How will we ever catch the criminal? In a scene that somehow manages to combine the trippiness or "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" with a graphic Jack the Ripper movie(take your pic), they show a flashback to the organ recovery(they may have said "harvest", I can't remember). "Eight organs in 2 hours," the coroner intones, with organs coming out in quick succession and tossed to waiting surgeons. Then cut to the cadaver, with incisions going up, down and sideways. "A Frankenstein" says Grissom. Oh, Grissom, you're so handsome, but you need to go back to your bugs, baby.
All right, gentle reader, where to begin? First of all, I have never, ever, NEV-AH(as we say in Jersey) seen an organ donor with anything other than ONE midline incision, from the top of the sternum to the pubis. If they're recovering heart valves and other tissue, they make a Y incision for the heart valves and then incisions along the extremities and pelvis to retrieve bones. Just organs, just one incision. And they don't rip out the organs, for goodness sakes. You know, these organs have to be used in a living person, right? Do I need to say they are handled with care? Not tossed around the OR like a live hand grenade. But you, as faithful donorcycle readers, already knew that.
Here's another thing. Many donors require autopsies. They are homocides, suicides, accident victims or sometimes they have just been in the hospital for less than 24 hours, requiring a call to the ME. In NJ, it is ILLEGAL for an ME to deny organ donation because of their investigation. In some cases, they may put limitations on it. For instance, say you were unfortunate enough to be shot in the left lung. The ME might then say that all organs could be recovered EXCEPT the left lung. Which we wouldn't want anyway, seeing as it had a big hole in it.
Here's the other thing. The medical examiner is welcome to COME TO THE HOSPITAL and see the deceased. Either up on the unit and/or in the OR. If they decline, we TC's have a special form, called "The ME operative report" that is filled out with all pertinent info, signed by the surgeon and then passed along to the ME's office, with pictures, blood, bile, urine specimens, copies of the chart and any radiology films, as well. We are a full service OPO, after all. We also call the ME prior to the recovery to set all this up. In this heartbreaking story, the grandparents' hope that their grandson's death would not be completely in vain is dashed by an ME's office that routinely denies organ donations in homicide investigations. A mom in Ohio had the same experience, when the coroner would not allow his organs to be recovered, even though his cause of death was obvious-a gun shot wound to the head. In such cases, it would be within the realm of common sense to deny cornea or eye donation-nothing above the neck. But really, do you need to see his kidneys to know how he died?
I hate to sound like a broken record, but donation is good for the donor's family as well as the recipient. Knowing that someone is going to live on with their loved one's organs is a balm for their wounds.
So where does this leave me with the guys in the crime lab? What would I say if I had an hour alone with Nick and Warrick? Nothing, of course, I'd be too busy staring into their eyes...my goodness, have you seen Gary Dourdan's eyes? Oh, yeah, organ donation-where was I?
You might think, savvy, innernet-reader that you are, that TV is just a harmless pasttime, a way to unwind after a hard day, to put your feet up and have a nice cold one. Well, that would be true for only 67% of you. Because in 2005, a Gallup poll showed that 43% of Americans got their health info from the TV. Out in Cali, a group of OPO's and transplant organizations has started a campaign called Donate Life Hollywood, They explain that if a show's plot contained such inaccuracies about HIV, there would be an uproar.
Dr. Susan Morgan, of Purdue University and author of "Entertainment (Mis)Education, has published two studies showing that the misperceptions of organ donation portrayed on TV keeps people from registering as donors.
It's true. If I think back to all the story lines I've seen on TV about organ donation, they always seem to involve some urban myth-selling organs, buying organs, mutilating bodies, etc. But never do I see them resolve the problems or clarify the myths. Maybe it's not compelling enough TV. Which may explain why I read a lot.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a producer to write to.