Court: Man's organs donated despite mom's plea

Under Ohio law, no one other than the donor can amend or revoke an organ donation consent.
Associated Press
Jul 12, 2013

An Ohio man declared brain dead and on life support after a hit-and-run accident last week in Columbus had his organs harvested under court order Wednesday despite objections from his family who contended he did not fully understand the decision he made when he registered to be a donor.

The Columbus Dispatch reported on Thursday that Lifeline of Ohio, the area's organ procurement agency, sought the court order Wednesday morning after the mother of 21-year-old Elijah Smith addressed a letter to the agency and Grant Medical Center stating she did not want her son to be an organ donor.

"We do not want our son to die like this," Pamela Smith wrote. Her son's September driver's license application showed him as a registered organ donor.

Under Ohio law, no one other than the donor can amend or revoke an organ donation consent.

The victim's father, Rodney Smith, said he and his wife also wanted additional time to see if their son would recover.

Lifeline filed a complaint in Franklin County's probate court after the organization received Pamela Smith's letter.

"Under the circumstances, no one — not even his family — can undo what he did," the attorney for the agency wrote.

Judge Guy Reece issued the order Wednesday afternoon.

A Lifeline spokeswoman, Marilyn Pongonis, told the newspaper this is the first time the agency has sought such a court order.

"Our hope is the family will see their son saved lives, that he was a hero," she said.

Rodney Smith said the family did not know his son was a registered donor. He said he hopes more families will become aware of donation procedures.

"Of course it sounds like a good idea, because you're helping someone else out," he said. "But in the end, someone has to sacrifice their body in order for someone else to gain."

Almost 119,000 are on the national organ transplant waiting list, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Elijah Smith was struck around 4 a.m. July 3 in Columbus' north end as he was biking home from work. Doctors declared him brain dead the following day. Police have found the vehicle that struck him, but no one has been charged in the incident.




Wanna help solve the organ shortage problem?

Allow for the sale of organs of the deceased. Set up charities and/or trust funds for their purchase.

Many families of the deceased (as when a breadwinner dies) could use the money.

Do the doctors, hospitals and other health care professionals involved in the transplant process work gratis?


Figures you would say something like that Winnie. It's set up for those with the greatest need, not who had the most money!


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Libel and defamation.


You can't choose who gets your organs - unless its a live doner. In fact, organ recipients don't know where their organ came from unless the doner's family wants them to know. The system is very regulated so everyone has an equal chance of getting an organ. Its all a matter of chance and timing.


with all due respect, selling organs would be a terrible idea. Only those who have money would then be able to afford it. Right now the tissue and blood typing is the deciding factor, not who can afford it. What this young man did was very honorable. Too bad he did not tell his family about his decisions and discuss them with his folks. It would have prevented this court case. Again...communication failed. I hope his organs went to people who can now live a productive life.


Health insurance pays for the transplant procedure - a fee for the organ itself probably wouldn't even double that bill. Like Contango asked - do the surgeons work for free? No, so that means it's going to cost a lot regardless.


I think Contango is suggesting the CHARITY pay the doners family - as an incentive. But its still a bad idea! Can you imgagine families fighting over the money? You would have to name a recipeint when you checked that box on your driver's license. And what about children fighting about pulling the plug? It would cloud that whole decision. Any money spent on this should be spent on educating the public about the importanct or organ donation. Make sure you check that box!!


Re: "Can you imgagine families fighting over the money?"

Trust me: Often happens even with life insurance payouts when there is a named beneficiary.

Relatives come out of the woodwork that ya didn't even know ya had.

Comes with the territory.

Selling the organs: Name a beneficiary – same as a life ins. policy.

The vast majority of Americans are underinsured anyway. Selling organs would help with expenses, etc.

If it's MY body, I should have the right to sell MY organs for the benefits of MY family if I so desire.

Besides: The problem is a shortage of organs. Other than guilt how do you solve it?

Money can be a great motivator.


If one can't sell their body while alive, how can you even think of selling organs after death? There would be mass corruption. That is what all that money would motivate. I agree though, you should be able to do as you please with YOUR body. Donation is not always free though. Someone has to pay for extracting the organs!


especially if it happens in the middle of a divorce. can you imagine? they would be fighting over that money too

Yellow Snow

Within 4 hours after my spouse passed, I got a call expressing condolances for a few minutes, then the true purpose of the call. Would I harvest any organs? I hung up on them. I now understand the phone call had to be made in a timely basis, but I'd just lost the love of my life. We both had previously legally signed our organ donation choices. It is an individual choice legally made.


I understand why you hung up on them...and I understand why they called you. So sorry for your loss.


Re: "We both had previously legally signed our organ donation choices."

I've written "VOID" across the organ donation section of my DL.

I told my spouse: If you can sell 'em - do it.

If not, I go out the way I came in.

NO transplants for me. When it's my time, it's my time.


Wow. It is absolutely your right to donate or not to donate. But it is astounding to me that you are ok with it for money, and not ok with it for no money. It takes all kinds I guess. You say you'd never want a transplant. What about your wife or child? Naming a benficiary of course would not eliminate fighting amoungst family memmbers. But my biggest objection is how it would cloud one's judgement during that awful decision-making process of whether or not to pull the plug. That is incredibly difficult, and I wouldn't want the prospect of a pay off to be in any way part of it.


you start doing it for money and you will find people killing off their families. or non qualified doctors cutting out things they shouldnt for the cash. I see lots of fraud with that.

Yellow Snow

Any one could have written void on your DL, and in time of emergency they may or may not see your DL. If this is your wish, go to DMV and have it revised, or changed next your license is due.


Wiinie, lets hope your time is soon. Not surprised your not a organ doner, you only care about yourself.


Re: "...whether or not to pull the plug."

Assuming OF COURSE that one dies in a hospital.

One's wishes are usually expressed by way of a Living Will & Power of Attorney. Got 'em?

If not: Legal Zoom is inexpensive and easy.

Answer the question: Organ shortage - what's the solution?


It is easy, you're right. But one's wishes usually AREN'T in a living will, statistically that is. Older people are more likely to have living wills, but they can't donate organs. Young people are more likely NOT to have one. Its easy to check a box at the DMV. I guess for your idea, people would have to take the extra step of legally naming a beneficiary - not through the DMV, but through some of other souce. Intersting, but I still don't like it! I'd rather educate people such as yourself, as to why they should check that box!


Re: "I'd rather educate people such as yourself, as to why they should check that box!"

Education = guilt.

Ain't gonna happen.

If and when the health professionals and institutions donate their time & expenses gratis, then MAYBE I'll think about it.

To think that some are not getting RICH off of organ transplants would demonstrate naiveté.

Supply & Demand.

I just want a “piece of the action” for my family – my right as an individual.


"Eduation=guilt" and God forbid you experience THAT emotion. As for your desire for a piece of the action...again, wow. If you want a piece of the action, become a transplant surgeon. Wait, that would require education, which apparantly equals guilt. Its a catch 22 for you!

Kidding aside, I do see your point. Education programs are designed around guilt. But they are also designed around an awareness that its not just about you and you can save a life with no skills, money, or effort. Reconsider!


Why not have viable organs automatically donated unless you opt out?


Re: "Why not have viable organs automatically donated unless you opt out?"

Tried in one state, declared unconstitutional.


Hmmm that seems invasive to me. How much work is it to opt out?


RE: "How much work is it to opt out?"

I forget which state, but the ASSUMPTION was that by not signing, you were giving consent.

The ASSUMPTION was why I wrote "VOID" across the section on my DL - NO MISUNDERSTANDING of my intentions.


Declaring organs be automatically donated conflicts with the First Amendment because there are some religions that have issues with "desecrating" the body. Personally, I think organ donation may be the ultimate gift and is certainly indicative of great charity and love, which is what most religions claim to espouse. But that's just me...

As for the family in this story, I certainly feel for their loss. But the bottom line is that their son was of legal age and was presumably of sound mind when he decided to be an organ donor. Sorry, but what the FAMILY would choose is immaterial in this instance.

For the record, I think organ donation is a great and generous idea. But setting up a system where organs can be sold is a BAD idea. Oh, I appreciate the legacy for the families of the deceased, but think for just a minute about the corruption dollars and cents inevitably brings. Forget charitable organizations paying for those who can't afford to otherwise purchase needed organs. The rich and/or the powerful would come out on top every time under such a system. Is it right? No. Would it happen? Silly you if you believe it wouldn't!


And once again, Sam, you opt for statism. My body is my property, to dispose of as I wish, including getting paid for it. You can sell your blood, plasma, hair, eggs, and sperm, why not your kidney? Do the surgeons work for free - no, so why does everybody get to make some money off this EXCEPT the family of the person who kept that organ healthy all those years?

You're all full of libertarian rhetoric here until something pulls your emotional strings, and then you're suddenly in love with Big Brother.


Where in the world did you find statism in what samadams wrote? I read it twice and all I see is support of individualism


Sam:"But setting up a system where organs can be sold is a BAD idea."

Two consenting individuals wish to make a transaction and Big Brother says they can't. What Contango has suggested is letting the market work to increase the available supply of organs and Sam says Big Brother can't let that happen. She even goes on to use classic socialist class warfare rhetoric to support her statist restriction:

"The rich and/or the powerful would come out on top every time under such a system."


Where the donors are concerned, the surgeons DO effectively work for free. There are no charges for organ donation surgeries.

Yes, your body is your own. That's where you get to decide whether to have tattoos or not; whether to be buried or cremated; and yes, whether or not to donate your organs after you're gone. Note that you CAN donate organs voluntarily without dying to family or others you designate; you can also join into an organ "exchange" where compatible organs are given to unrelated strangers until the string leads back to you or your loved one. I'm just talking buying and selling organs as not the best of plans given the corruption that is, as I said, inevitable. Free markets don't work when they're overregulated. They also don't work when they're thoroughly corrupted.