‘The rich do better’: ethics and Eugene Melnyk’s new liver

The recent news about Ottawa Senators owner, Eugene Melnyk, appealing for a living liver donor has certainly raised some ethical questions. He is a well-known person, arguably a celebrity, and he used that status to give him an advantage in seeking a donor. Unlike those, like me, with kidney disease, there is no equivalent to dialysis for those with a failing liver. He didn’t have the ability to wait for months or years, and his blood type, apparently rare, made a match from a deceased donor unlikely. So, desperate to live (who isn’t?), he made his appeal with every tool at his disposal.

Does that give him an unfair advantage? I’m not sure. If I had the same resources available to me, would I not do the same? Read this article from the Toronto Star and let me know what you think about this issue.

‘The rich do better’: ethics and Eugene Melnyk’s new liver

The success of Ottawa Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk’s public plea for a new liver has some bioethicists confronting a “double standard” in health care.

FRED CHARTRAND / THE CANADIAN PRESS Ottawa Senators' owner Eugene Melnyk, seen here last year in the visitors gallery in the House of Commons, is recovering well after a liver transplant this week at Toronto General Hospital. Melnyk's public plea for a living donor has raised ethical issues about access to health care.

FRED CHARTRAND / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Ottawa Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk, seen here last year in the visitors gallery in the House of Commons, is recovering well after a liver transplant this week at Toronto General Hospital. Melnyk’s public plea for a living donor has raised ethical issues about access to health care.

By: Jim Coyle News, Published on Sat May 23 2015

It should shock no one that in the matter of access to health care, even to the organs in other people’s bodies, the wealthy and well-connected, such as Ottawa Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk, are different from the rest of us.

“The rich do better,” Dr. Arthur Caplan, head of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, told the Star. “I don’t know that that’s a headline, but it’s nonetheless true.”

Caplan co-wrote an article on Forbes.com last week that said publicity campaigns for donor organs, such as that successfully mounted by Melnyk for a liver, create “a double standard” under which those with name recognition have an advantage over those with fewer resources and less profile.

After a plea last week by the Senators on Melnyk’s behalf, more than 500 potential donors volunteered. Doctors with the University Health Network’s multi-organ transplant team selected one from 12 potential candidates and a plea last week this week on the 55-year-old Melnyk.

More than 20 of those not selected to donate to Melnyk have said they would continue in the process to donate to others in need, said Dr. David Grant, leader of the surgical transplant team. “Many lives will be saved as a result of this appeal.”

To read more, click here.

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