Should autopsies prevail over organ donation? A drama in three acts

Picture the scene (I). Its 4 am, November 1st. 4 young girls in their Halloween costumes are being rushed to the hospital after the tragic stampede that took place minutes ago at the “Madrid Arena”, a huge disco in which more than 10,000 people gathered to listen to a super DJ which goes by the name of “Aoki”. You can read here the whole story. Three of the girls were pronounced dead on arrival, and the fourth, although not dead yet, suffers from devastating brain injury due to the anoxia. She is placed on a ventilator and the subsequent tests confirm the horrible prognosis. Her family, members of the ultraorthodox catholic sect known as “Opus Dei” (remember “The Da Vinci Code”?), agrees to the withdrawal of Belen’s life sustaining treatment and to donate her organs. Pedro Almodovar would not have written the script in a better fashion. But wait…

Picture the scene (II). November 3rd, 4 am. One of the best Spanish surgery teams commanded by the legendary surgeon Enrique Moreno – a disciple of Thomas Starzl and a world reference in liver transplantation-, is already at the theater of the “Hospital Doce de Octubre” waiting for Belen’s liver. The recipient’s family prays in a nearby room. Suddenly a mobile phone rings. It’s the criminal judge in charge of the investigation of what happened at the Halloween macro-party. Belen should be autopsied and her organs cannot be transplanted.

Up to this point the facts, which in this case superseded fiction. Now comes the (real) fiction: November 2nd, 4 a.m. The transplant coordinator at the Hospital Doce de Octubre is trying to convince Belen’s father to donate her organs. He is not considering anything but interring her daughter right away. At some point the doctor grabs a mobile phone and asks the judge for permission to confiscate Belen’s organs. The judge resolves that those organs will save lives and cannot be discarded. Wouldn’t it be nice if this fiction turns into (legal) reality?

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