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Request for donor tissue caught family off guard

To the editor:

On Dec. 2, my mother, Marie, died en route to Cooley Dickinson Hospital. She was 81 years old. Hours after her death she was donating tissue from her body — even though she had never signed up as an organ or tissue donor. I was surprised this was possible and others I have told about it have reacted as I did: with shock and indignation.

A few hours after she died, New England Organ Bank called my stepfather, Vince — my mother’s husband of 38 years — on his home phone to ask his permission to take the tissue from her body. Vince, who had only hours earlier lost his beloved wife, was taken by surprise by New England Organ Bank’s telephone inquiry. After a few hours, he answered yes to the request — a decision that he has since said he regrets. He made it only because he was in an emotional and grief-stricken state when New England Organ Bank sprang the question on him.

To make matters worse, on Jan. 8, just over a month after Marie’s death, Vince received a letter from New England Organ Bank informing him that because Marie’s tissue received an initial negative assessment after testing, they couldn’t use it after all. It should not be legal practice to ask people out of the blue if they will give permission to an organ bank to take tissue — that very day — from the body of a newly dead loved one.

It is not ethical or fair practice to ask such a momentous decision of someone who has just been bereaved. Regulations and laws in New England ought to be amended so that such practices are not allowed to add the grief of those who have lost a loved one.

Andrew Frisardi


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