Ethan A. Huff
Dec 3, 2010
The City of New York recently launched a new emergency services pilot program that seems more like something out of a science fiction movie than a real-life initiative. According to a recent New York Times report, the city has begun deploying two emergency ambulances in response to 911 calls — one to try to save the lives of those involved, and the other to harvest their vital organs should the rescue efforts fail or be deemed likely to fail.
The city’s new ambulances are emblazoned with the words “Organ Preservation Unit” (OPU), and they now trail behind primary rescue vehicles headed to situations where there could be valuable organs involved. And city officials insist that the whole procedure is perfectly ethical because the first rescue vehicle is unaware that the second one is there until a supervisor decides to stop the rescue efforts and make the announcement, which allegedly eliminates the possibility that rescuers will purposely allow a victim to die in order to gain access to the valuable organs.
The city received a grant from the federal government in the amount of $1.5 million to test the new program, and some officials say they hope to see the program expanded in the future. They say there are not enough organs available for those in need, and that targeting emergency situations where people with usable organs are likely to die could result in a significant boost of available organs.
Currently, OPUs are only dispatched between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight in Manhattan. And only people between the ages of 18 and 60 who die of cardiac arrest are eligible to be harvested. But some officials are already looking forward to expanding the types of situations and deaths that will be eligible under the program.
“If we prove that you can take the body and successfully do this, [expanding the program] will be the next step,” explained Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, director of emergency services at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York .
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