Bioethics Blogs

BioethicsTV: Pure Genius Proudly Ignores the Rules

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

“We’re Bunker Hill, since when do we follow the rules” sums up the attitude of this poor-performing medical drama that kicks ethics, law, and regulation to the curb on a weekly basis. Fictional Dr. Zoe Brockett uttered the above statement. In this fall finale episode, she breaks confidentiality, UNOS rules, and autonomous informed consent.

This episode (season 1; episode 8 – 12/15/2016) sees a patient with a rare blood type in need of a kidney transplant or face certain death in weeks. Her daughter, a world-class ballerina who was just offered her lifetime dream—a position with the Paris Opera Ballet—is willing to donate but is not a match. The hospital designs a new algorithm outside of UNOS to create an 8-pair transplant chain of international scope. The caveat is that the pairs will not learn of each other until after the surgeries and one pair will never be known. After all 8 pairs are flown to Northern California, we discover that mom’s donor is 1-month pregnant and thus cannot donate. However, if the daughter will still be a donor then the other 7 recipients can get their transplants.

The daughter chooses to withdraw, knowing that her mother will not get a kidney and in the recovery period she will not only lose her chance at the dream job, but she also won’t be able to be helpful during her mother’s dying. Another patient is concerned about the international representation in the donor pool, wanting only to get a kidney from a white person.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.