Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Christmas 2015: Call to Action

The ghost of donor passed

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 16 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6244
  1. David M Shaw, senior researcher
  1. 1Institute for Biomedical Ethics, University of Basel, 4056 Basel, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to: David M Shaw{at}

Doctors’ first obligation is to their patients, even after the patient is dead, says David Shaw

I am an angry ghost. I died in a car crash last month. I’m not very happy about that, but that’s not why I’m angry. I was a registered organ donor, and my wife didn’t respect my wish to donate my organs. I’m a bit upset with her about that, but I’m really angry because the medical team let my wife, who was in great distress, over-rule my wishes without asking her to reconsider. When she told the medical team that she was too upset to agree to donation, they simply accepted that in order to avoid upsetting her further. I’m angry because they did that despite knowing that they are supposed to respect the wishes of registered donors. It was as if I wasn’t there. No-one spoke for me.

I’m also …

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