Continuing Coverage of Roozrokh Preliminary Hearing: Transplant Expert Testimony
In the criminal proceedings against transplant surgeon Hootan Roozrokh, MD, Sarah Arnquist of the San Luis Obispo Tribune provides continuing coverage of the ongoing preliminary hearing and specifically reports on Friday’s potentially damning testimony from prosecution expert witness Clarence Foster, III, MD, director of the kidney and pancreas transplantation program at the University of California, Irvine.
According to the latest Tribune report, Foster clarified that “a transplant surgeon should never assume care for a potential organ donor,” and that he had “never seen a transplant surgeon order medication to alleviate pain in the transplant process.” Moreover, Foster stated that the “only reason to give morphine and Ativan [lorazepam] to potential donors after they are removed from life support would be to hasten their death.”
According to the news report, Foster also implied exceptional ignorance on the part of the patient’s attending physician, Laura Lubarsky, by stating that he never knew an attending physician to misunderstand his or her protective role toward the patient during cardiac-death donation.
During cross-examination, Roozrokh’s attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach predictably attempted to undermine Foster’s credibility but also provided some insight into the potential strategy of the defense. Schwartzbach highlighted the lack of accepted medical protocols for cardiac-death donation specifically at the time of the patient’s death. He also implied that the accepted act of removing ventilatory assistance, which is undeniably intended to hasten death, is really no different than administering morphine or lorazepam, which is also intended to accelerate death.
The rebuttal to this argument, of course, lies in the nature of the act: the removal of ventilatory assistance is the withdrawal of extraordinary medical care, which is ultimately intended to lead to a passive death; the administration of massive doses of analgesic or sedating medication constitutes an intent to actively produce death.