Have you signed to be an organ donor?

Treat this story as a mystery story.  A bad deed has been done.  The mystery is in how it is undone. 

Background:  A family member  died  three weeks ago; the circumstances made her an excellent organ donor, which she wanted to be.  Presumably, a number of  people now have better lives because of her death.

The bad deed:  The hospital where her organs were collected have charged her widower for the procedure.  Or, more precisely, they’ve charged the insurance.  But insurance comes with a deductable.  The bill is very high; around $20K.**

I’ve looked around on the internet.  The family of the donor is never charged, many sites say.  In fact, one site says, sometimes the hospital donates the costs.  In any case, if something has to be paid, it is the recipients’ responsibility. 

I cannot find any reference to any legal protection the donor’s family has.  But stay tuned.  You can bet that if you hand an unjust bill for 20K to a very stressed out individual, there will be objections.  And the insurance company is not too happy either.

This is all in the US, of course.


**Actually, the whole bill is $38K; she arrived at the hospital brain dead, but it was about 15 hours before that was officially determined and declared.  It looks like those hours may have cost somewhere around 15-18K, from what  I understand.

This may well seem quite insane.  It is medicine in American.

7 thoughts on “Have you signed to be an organ donor?

  1. This is extremely surreal and horrendous.
    A grieving person gets charged with having the organs of his loved one removed? Are they seriously out of their freaking minds?

  2. Yes! Thanks! Since the insurance is covering for this person, the more serious worry is others who don’t have it. Can one be held legally liable? I’ve read a great deal on the web and I can’t find any mention of any laws. If it’s all a matter of understanding and agreement, it might be that that should change.

    This reminds me of the Fox news case: of course, we all agree that journalists shouldn’t lie through their teeth, and that’s the policy, but the law doesn’t forbid it, so if you feel you need to lie, you can. And we all agree about how hospitals should behave, but if they don’t want to, maybe they can…

  3. To ward off the usual round of US-bashing on healthcare issues, which is often justified but not on this particular topic, this is not standard practice in the US.

    Get hold of the Transplant center at the hospital, and if they can’t resolve it, have them put you through to the advocacy organization for organ donation in that state. Other routes within the hospital would include their Patient Relations office, and possibly even their Legal office (though I would do that one last, in case they decide to take an adversarial position).

    If you want direct tactical advice, have Jender give you my email address. I’m ex-hospital compliance.

  4. Thanks so much, J-Bro. If it doesn’t get sorted out, I will ask Jender for your email address.

    What I’m concerned about really in raising the issue in a general forum is whether there’s a protection in law or at least some airtight guarantee that the donor’s family doesn’t pay.

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