A California transplant surgeon was recently charged with abuse of a dependent adult after he prescribed what prosecutors said were “excessive doses of morphine and an anti-anxiety drug” in order to accelerate the patient’s death.1 The patient, 25-year-old Ruben Navarro, who had suffered anoxia that left him severely brain damaged, was having life support withdrawn in the operating room and would become an organ donor after cardiac death.

The surgeon was accused of hastening Mr Navarro’s death in the interest of preserving the organs in the best condition possible for transplant.1 The surgeon was ultimately found not guilty, but this episode raises some interesting questions about end-of-life care in the context of organ donation and procurement. For many health care professionals, bioethicists, and members of the lay public, the most important question raised by Mr Navarro’s case is this: Why is...

You do not currently have access to this content.