Kansas And Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Asks Whether It is Ethical To Hasten One Death To Save Another Person?

Kansas and Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger believes this is an important question to ask even if the answer at first blush might be repugnant. However, police are investigating an anesthesiologist in Los Angeles, CA for doing just that. The Los Angeles County coroner is conducting an investigation, in conjunction with local law enforcement authorities, into whether the physician gave a high dose of a powerful painkiller to kill an 8-year-old child faster so that the child’s organs could be harvested and sent to transplant patients.

According to Foxnews.com, in 2013, the 8-year-old child suffered cardiac arrest when the child was found hanging out of a washing machine. The child nearly drowned. Notwithstanding the heroic efforts of medical technicians, the child was saved; however, the child was placed on life support. The child’s family decided to remove the life support apparatus and subsequently the child passed away. The initial coroner’s report ruled the death an accident by near drowning. The child also suffered from “fragile x syndrome” which is a genetic abnormality causing developmental and intellectual deficiencies.

One of the L.A. County coroner’s investigators questioned the medical procedure that child received. The investigator wanted to delve into the reasons the anesthesiologist at Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center administered a very high dose of fentanyl. The medical examiner at the time did not indicate a further investigation was necessary. A new chief medical examiner for the L.A. County coroner’s office subsequently added fentanyl overdose to the child’s cause of death but only after the investigator pushed for the change.

The issue came to light recently in a “whistleblower” lawsuit. The investigator sued L.A. County for damages claiming she was fired as retaliation for her persistent pursuit of what she believed was a contributing cause of death of the child. The lawsuit revealed the question asked by the coroner’s investigator.

The young boy was never going to regain consciousness or brain function after spending 25 minutes face down hanging out of a washing machine. The boy’s heart stopped, but paramedics were able to restart it. Unfortunately, the brain was irrevocably damaged. The child was not clinically brain dead, but his parents knew he would never awaken. They decided to remove him from life support and donate his organs.

Physicians could not harvest the boy’s organs until his heart stopped beating even though the ventilator was removed. Organs begin to decay only after 30 minutes of oxygen deprivation.  During that time, the anesthesiologist attending to the child gave a dosage of the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Physicians do not know whether people in the state in which the child lay feel pain. Consequently, physicians order painkilling medication just in case.

UCLA Medical Center policy approves using painkillers in a situation such as this. However, hospital policy expressly forbids hastening a death to preserve organs. Medical records produced in the lawsuit only indicate that the dying boy received comfort measures. No reference was made to the use of Fentanyl. However, the coroner’s office determined that the boy received 500 micrograms of the drug despite his tiny frame which carried merely 47 pounds.

Additional evidence leads one to question whether the anesthesiologist violated hospital policy and the ethics of her profession. According to the lawsuit, after doctors removed the ventilator, the boy gasped for air until the anesthesiologist administered the pain medication. Then, the boy peacefully slipped away.

Zealous Representation For Medical Professionals Facing Discipline

Kansas and Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger is a zealous advocate for professional licensees. She has dedicated her practice to fighting for people to keep their livelihood and their careers when facing discipline. Contact Attorney Sanger today at 785-979-4353.