Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On being careful what we wish for...

By now, most folks know that Sarah Murnaghan got her new lungs, and for that we say "Baruch HaShem" (Praised be G-d). As life is the most precious of gifts, one can't help but be moved by her new-found hope and lease on life.

In Judaism, we are encouraged to consider all facets of a given subject or issue. That is, our job is to find "balance," and so even happy occasions require us to consider the not-so-happy alternatives (eg breaking of the glass at a wedding). And there are plenty of negative aspects to this story, as well.

Let's start with the most obvious: as we noted in our original post on the subject, how do the transplant folks say "no" to the next little boy or girl who wants a shot at adult organs? Has the process, which seemed to be working well and fairly up to now, been irretrievably broken?

I think there's a very strong case to be made that the answer is "yes:" from this point forth, it will be the lawyers, judges and media making life-or-death decisions. Two old saws seem to have been proven right here: "once is always" and "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." That is, the precedent has now been set that the ones with the most photogenic donee and the most money and the best "story" are going to be getting free passes to the front of the queue, leaving those with fewer such resources in the dust, regardless of actual need or physical condition.

Dr. Sander Florman, director of the Mount Sinai Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute in New York, notes that "we can all sympathize with the plight of a young girl, but maybe a 13-year-old girl waiting for an adult organ is the one who didn't get a transplant."


And that brings us to the next question: what mother or father, or sister or brother, was just condemned to death so that little Sarah might live? And don't be fooled: this is exactly the outcome here. Someone else on the list, presumably much higher on it, in fact, was passed over for that set of lungs, and there's no guarantee that another suitable set will be available in time.

Now, the organization which oversees transplants has added a codicil "that allows for occasional exceptions. These children have to be recommended by their doctors and then have their cases reviewed by a national board before they can actually be exempted;" which is all well and good, until one notices that the criteria seem to be rather self-fulfilling.

And, finally, there's this: the case of Ms Sarah actually serves to underscore that which another (older) Sarah noted with the passage of the ObamaTax: Death Panels. And make no mistake, that is precisely what happened here: a government employee - who, by the way, is not a doctor and apparently has zero medical training - just condemned to death an adult who was not as cute and cuddly as Sarah Murnaghan, and whose family did not have the means and the media to plead their case (if they even knew about it in the first place).

I'll allude back to Mr Chesterton here:
"In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
[Major Thanks to co-blogger Bob V for the tip to the Yahoo article!]
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