If you ever need to call an ambulance in New York City, you might get more than you bargained for. Two ambulances to be precise; one to help keep you alive, and one to harvest your organs, in case you don't make it. Given the organ shortage out there in America — apparently 18 people die a day because they couldn't get someone else's fresh flesh — this is definitely a good cause, but having an extra set of paramedics hanging around waiting for you to die so they can dismember you is a little creepy.
Evidently this system is already in practice in Spain, and the organ-harvesting ambulances are only dispatched when a known volunteer donor is in a life-threatening situation, and now a group of NYC doctors led by surgeon Lewis Goldfrank of Bellevue Hospital Center at New York University want to replicate the process. Still, it's not hard to picture the harvesting paramedics looking over the regular EMTs saying "oh man, that looks bad. Don't think he's going to make it..." or carting someone off to be 'redistributed,' only to have the patient protest, "I'm not dead yet," Monty Python-style:
Normally, transplant and organ preservation specialists don't get involved until after a patient has been declared dead. "Declaring someone dead out in the field, when the person is either not decapitated or decomposed ... is a critical decision," said Michael Grodin, a specialist in health law and bio ethics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
"I think it is a bad idea, a counterproductive one," he said. "The public will see it as an ambulance floating around in the city ready to take your body."
The project's goal is to send an ambulance to the scene of an accident and for the paramedics to do what they can to save the victim's life.
But without necessarily telling these paramedics, project administrators will also order a special ambulance in charge of collecting fresh human organs to the accident site. Its personnel will intervene only if the patient dies.