Michigan Funeral Directors Association Journal

In an industry already plagued with consumer protection concerns, it baffles me why funeral directors would choose to publish an 11 page article suggesting that organ transplant is a for profit industry and is potentially harmful to the donor. Don’t funeral directors have enough controversy to settle when consumers feel that some take advantage of people at their most vulnerable time of need? Why would they take on the merits of organ transplant unless of course they were looking to justify another profit center–a potential mark up on embalming an organ donor?

I am the recipient of two organ transplants–a living related kidney and a cadaveric pancreas. I am also part of an organ donor family. My brother and I carried out our mother’s wishes to donate her organs. Finally I am the wife of a funeral director. And so my perspective is pretty all encompassing.

The article in question is an excerpt of the book “The New Undead” written by Dick Teressi. In it, he sensationalizes organ transplant and refers to it as an industry as if it is done for profit. He suggests (among other medical untruths);

  • ·       “The Transplant Industry is a $20 billion dollar per year industry…”

  • ·       Donor family should remain present after the brain death has been declared

  • ·       Donor pain during organ recovery

  • ·       Organ Donor disfigurement for funeral services

“Transplant Industry”

Indeed there are significant costs associated with saving lives by transplanting good organs from someone who has died into others with failing organs. It is a medical advancement that gives a second chance at life to people with diseased, failing organs. To maintain these new organs immunosuppressant drugs have been developed and improved to prolong the life of the new organ. This is not exactly a self serving industry when there are so many beneficiaries. Yes the drug companies, hospitals and medical staff benefit. But to a much larger degree, the organ recipient, donor family, and recipient family benefit. Perhaps an unexpected beneficiary is the funeral director. Because my husband is a funeral director and has buried several organ donors including my mother, I know that he has a special sense of pride when serving a family of an organ donor–similar in nature to washing Jesus’ feet.

Family remaining present after a brain dead declaration?

Surely hospitals and funeral directors know that the grief process is highly individual–from screams and shouts to vigils to celebrations of life. To suggest that family members remain present through the entire donation process is not just ridiculous, but unchristian. The body is merely the shell we leave behind after death.

 Donor pain during organ recovery

I will sum up this implausible notion with a quote from a transplant medical professional, “The peripheral pain receptors have to travel thru the brain stem to be perceived by the higher brain. Dead is dead. Hearts have regulatory systems that are independent of brain function which could explain the racing, especially if stimulated. Has he ever seen a heart beating in a Petri dish?”

Organ Donor disfigurement for funeral services?

I suppose it depends on the skill of the funeral director the family chooses. As for my husband’s work, it has always been pleasing to the families he has served.

So why did the Michigan Funeral Directors Association use 11 pages of its journal to offer credence to this quackery? Was it to discourage organ donation? Was it to justify funeral homes who want to charge extra for embalming an organ donor? Or was it to gain readership and issue discussion for the Journal?

If the purpose of publishing this article was to increase the Journal’s readership and discussion, an article touting the benefits of Cremation would do more and would certainly wake up brain dead funeral directors who base their profit margin on casket sales.

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