Journalistic Terrorism


I am a heart transplant recipient and a registered organ donor.  Today my new heart aches for the over 113,000 people on the national transplant list and their families because an irresponsible writer just told them their lives are unimportant and that they should go home and die.  I know what it’s like to be on that list.  I know firsthand the terror associated with the fact that because less than half of all Americans are organ donors some patients will die waiting.  In 2010 over 6,000 died and now the shortage of donor organs is even greater with the likelihood that the fatality list will go even higher. With the publication of a “don’t become an organ donor” column in the Wall Street Journal, the author and the paper have displayed a heartlessness I thought could not exist.  I would rather not believe that anyone would seek financial reward at the cost of human life but that’s what author Dick Terisi and Wall Street Journal owner and publisher Rupert Murdoch have done.  It is what it is – Journalistic Terrorism.

The irresponsibility of Terisi and Murdoch is going to cause a lot of people to die.  The story in question claims that physicians allow and even facilitate the death of patients in order to retrieve their organs for transplantation.  Not only is that charge wrong, it is reckless and life threatening.  The teams of people in hospitals that care for patients, however ill, are not connected nor do they report to the very specialized transplant teams in the same organization.  And – not all hospitals even have transplant capabilities.  There are 5, 754 accredited hospitals in the United States but only 242 of them are transplant centers.  Terisi makes it sound as though all hospitals are transplant centers with surgeons hovering over patients, scalpel in hand ready to retrieve organs.  That picture is not only distorted it is the product of the overactive imagination found in most fiction writers.  The problem is Terisi passes himself off as a knowledgeable reporter of actual events.  Let me be very blunt.  He knows better but lying about the process sells more books and that’s his bottom line.

His major point is that Physicians are cavalier in their approach to proclaiming brain death so that they can hurry the process of recovering organs for transplant.  Fact:  the procedure for determining death prior to recovery of organs is rigorous, thorough and as exact as medical science can make it.  My previous blog on the subject “Death by Journalism” explains the process for declaring brain death in great detail.   This story is a dramatic example of what I call “Junk” science.  He uses anecdotal evidence and off the cuff remarks of a single physician to make his point and calls it evidence.

Some readers are going to believe this nonsense and refuse to become organ donors.  Others, who are donors, may decide to reverse their decision.  In either case people will die as a result because the critical shortage of organs for transplant will become even more critical.  Terisi and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal must be held accountable for this reckless endangerment of human life.  This time there is a cost for having a “Free” press and the cost will likely be the deaths of a good many people…just so an author can sell some books and a publisher can sell a few more newspapers. Shame on them!

If you want the facts about organ donation/transplantation and associated issues here are some links.

* Fact sheet.  Myths about organ donation (this link directly addresses the subject of care of dying patients)  http://tinyurl.com/7xngpet

* 25 facts about donation/transplantation National Kidney Foundation http://tinyurl.com/8o6uq2

* How the transplant system workshttp://tinyurl.com/7rccn3u

* UNOS facts about Transplantation in the U.S.  http://tinyurl.com/7bkmaft

* Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO) General information http://www.trioweb.org/

You can also read more about a wide variety of donation/transplantation issues on my blog Bob’s Newheart on WordPress www.bobsnewheart.wordpress.com

Bottom line.  We can’t stop people like Terisi and Murdoch from publishing lies and distortions but we can mitigate their effect by speaking up and letting the truth be known that organ donation threatens no one and saves thousands of lives.

Every organ donor can either save or enhance the lives of up to 60 people.  That’s a fact!  Tell the story and tell it often.  I’m here to write this piece because of an unselfish organ donor.  I will not let his action or his character be defiled because of the greed of a writer and publisher – I hope you will join me in honoring all donors and their families by spreading the word that organ donation saves lives.

Lodge your protest at Wall Street Journal Contact:
Online: onlinejournal@wsj.com
1-800-JOURNAL (1-800-568-7625)
Outside the U.S.:1-609-514-0870
Monday – Friday: 7am to 10pm ET
Saturday: 8am to 3pm ET

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

 Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

 Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

 

Posted on March 15, 2012, in Journalism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Kay Kardian-Porter

    I am the widow of a Veteran who had two liver transplants. Unfortunately, I lost my husband who developed an infection called sepsis after his second transplant. My story goes back to 2009 when my husband had his first liver transplant. My husband developed HepC while he was in the Viet Nam era. One day he became sick and they put him in the hospital and told him he had HepC. He was honnoerbly discharged because of this. In 2007 he went to the doctor and he found out that his liver was damaged and that he needed a liver transplant, they began the process of screening him and evaluating him for to get on the list. He was acceptable canadate for a liver transplant. I did not know all the details meld scores, what happens to his health during the time he has to wait etc. We both just wanted him to have another chance at living even if it was only for ten years or so. He loved life and he went by all the rules and they were strick rules giving to him by the Veteran Hospital in Portland Or. from the transplant team. I looked at the situration that somone has to die to get a transplant I thought that was so sad, but it gives another person a chance at life. Staying at the lodge that the VA provides for the patients and their caregivers I saw many people coming there with hope in their eyes, I saw disapointments in them when they could not get a liver transplant because of cancer or they were just to sick to wait for a doner. My husband was a very proud man and loved his country and we both believed in the medical profession that was taking care of him, until 2011, I believed in them also. In 2009 he received his first transplant and everything seems to go well, we stayed at the lodge for three months after his transplant for post transplant. We were told when to go home. In June we went home and he was on lots of medication to take everyday around 30 pills a day and also watching for germs because after a liver transplant one has no protection to fight off infections. We were so happy that he was doing good. We loved each other very much and I watched everything and everyone around him to make sure know one had colds, sores, anything that my husband could be exposed to. Unfortunately, our happeness was bittersweet and in August of 2009 the liver was not working properly it was not rejecting just was not functioning, the team put stints inside of him to help with the bile flow that the new liver could not do. A few months later he was put on another list for another transplant. During the two years of waiting for another liver transplant we found more out of what type of liver he did receive and it was from a patient that was brain dead but still on life support, the doner was a young man of sixteen and he had down sydrome and he had wandered on the freeway in Portland and was hit by several cars. My husband received his liver. Because these types of livers DOD livers they do not do well and the doctors thought it would work with my husband but it did not. We received a letter from the doners family and they told us about how their son died and that they hoped that his organs helped someone else to live. I was very heartbroken cause I could not tell them that the liver had failed. During the time that my husband had to wait (two years) he became very sick lost a lot of weight and those stints had to be changed every three months plus the bandages were changed daily which I did for him. He was very yellow most of the time and everytime we went to the VA hospital in Portland we could not get any answers as to why he is not getting a transplant right away, but they go by the mell score and his meld score was not high enough they told us, I at one time told them that he needed a liver soon. Finally after two years his meld score was high enough to get another transplant. We received the transplant in October 2011 it looked good so far. The surgeon came to tell me after his transplant that a lot of work had to be done with my husband connected the bile duct that was destroyed by the old liver transplant and reconstructing other organs for the new liver to work was daunting. As he told me it was the most discusting thing he had ever seen. I asked him if it was because of the old transplant and he said yes!!. Then why did they make him wait I don’t know he said to me. But hopefully he will get better now and it is not a liver from a doner who is brain dead. My husband did ok for a while then he started having seizues and still losing weight his body was worn out he never got out of the hospital he died from an infection Sepsis which I believe was caused by all the repair to his bile duct and having to many things wrong from the first transplant. My husband lived for four months after the second transplant and it was very sad to lose such a good man who put all his faith and trust in the doctors. I feel bitterness toward them for letting him wait for so long while the old transplanted liver rotted inside of his body. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from this but I just wanted my experience told. We did not expect him to die we wanted a life that he deserved. Thank you

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  2. Excellent perspective on a flawed and incomplete article. Even worse is the “photo illustration” (newspaper talk for altered image) that accompanies the online version on WSJ.com. I found the picture to be at least as misleading and inflammatory as the written words.

    On a brighter note, the comments accompanying the online article (>500 at this moment) overwhelmingly support the pro-donation point of view and correct many of the misconceptions you cite here. Thank goodness for “two way” media.

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    • Thanks Loren..appreciate your comments. I’ve been accused of being overly passionate about this issue so your support means a lot. Even so, I’ll back off a bit for a short while. Bad journalism really turns me off but when you combine bad with reckless accusations that could cause a loss of life I become livid. Good to meet up with you again. Any news on the job front?

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