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.


"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."

Wow! Sounds just like something Big Dog would say, and probably has paraphrased talking about some other industry. See, Sam, this is how the country becomes socialist and authoritarian.

Everybody has their pet cause where their emotions compel them to carve out exceptions to limited government. Combined, all those exceptions create total tyranny. It probably warms Dog's heart to see you doing your part for his cause. Nor is this the first issue on which you've been two-faced about limited government.
You complain about a shortage of organs. Go back to economics 101 - under supply and demand, what causes shortages? Artificial ceilings on the price, in this case a zero dollar ceiling. If you can outlaw compensation completely with X level of government, you can effectively police a commercial system with Y level, where Y < X.

You're either for limited government, or you're not. Principle ceases to be principle when it's subordinate to the question of whose ox is being gored.

Oh, by the way, the organ recipient is charged for the harvest operation.


Once the declaration of brain death has been made (for those who are donors) the organ donation team pretty much comes in and takes over. The patient's hospital bill is "stopped" at that point. All costs for organ donation are covered by the organization.




Umm...No, As a nursing student this was part of a researched project. And not to mention there was a conference held at a local hospital which went into great detail about the process. For those who decide to donate and after a declaration of brain death has been made, the organization which handles harvesting the organs takes over and the billing from the hospital stops at that moment.


That's the right part. What about the cost of taking the organs? Who pays?


And it's been established that, if that box on your license is checked, it biases the decision as to when you're brain dead.

There's at least one case of the transplant surgeon about to harvest from a patient declared brain deaf, seeing the patient's adam's apple move, and refusing to continue the procedure, and that patient walking out of the hospital a month later. I have spoken to the sister of a drowning victim and heard how the hospital declared her brother brain dead and pressured the family to donate his organs, and they refused. A few years later this "brain dead" man was writing computer software.


Contango if I'm reading what you're suggesting correctly - and I'll admit I might be wrong - you're suggesting that the organs go to the highest bidder and that's just about as wrong as anything could possibly be! Now this is just my opinion but in most cases when someone is going thru a terminal illness where they need an organ replacement they don't exactly have truckloads of money laying around to go out and buy whatever organ they need that's on the market. There's hospital expenses, medicine, in-home care (because 9 times out of 10 the people that needs these things are probably not able to be up and working, they're bed bound) and that all takes money that usually exceeds what their insurance covers, if it covers it at all. So if they need it - and they happen to be a match for that person - they need to come up with the money somehow to buy the organ that has just been placed on the auction block?? There is no real answer to organ shortage except education and continued donation campaigning. I really hope the day never comes when one of your loved ones is in need of an organ donation and you're faced with this problem. Then your answer of seeing who has one on the market available for sale isn't an answer in any way, shape or form.


My comment is just about the story itself. I guess I can understand what the parents were thinking in the short term but really, their son was declared brain dead. The hope would be there for recovery but the reality would be slim to none. In the meantime, he's on life support for who knows how long at who's expense? Certainly not the parents as he was age 21. So that means medicaid, hence, we the taxpayers. On top of that, did they not even consider their son's quality of life in the event there was even a minute recovery? I say it was just being selfish on their part.



Yellow Snow

Ummmm, you can stay on your parents insurance until your 26 now. I don't think that applies if your are married though.


Who is to say his parent had insurance? Even then, I'm quite sure there is a cap to what would be paid.


People are frequently erroneously declared brain dead, and the probability of this happening increases when they are known to be an organ donor.

The Big Dog's back

Frequently? I don't think so.


Nemesis is a teabagger I believe, I can see why they often are declared brain dead when in fact, they just haven't seen the light yet. :}

The Big Dog's back



This is a really sad story..I live in Columbus now and it was all over the news. The kid was riding his bike home from work at night and someone ran him over and took off. He also had a newborn child. The parents wanted to wait to see if he could somehow recover from being brain dead but because he had organ donor on his driver's license they took his organs and pulled the plug.

2cents's picture

I do not know if I can buy the story as you have written, did he have a DNR stipulation? Was he on full life support? Not sure of the rules but some of those things are spelled out, I know I do.


Brain dead is brain dead. You can't somehow recover. I feel for the family for their loss and lack of understanding.

2cents's picture

Good for him, and if there is a way for him to look into the living world he will see that he has given the ultimate sacrifice and others will benefit from his choice. I carry a donor card as well as my drivers license.

dorothy gale

I donate blood every 16 weeks, two units red blood cells. I am not an organ donor so giving blood is my way of giving life.


oh no. here we go again with our version of rewriting the donation laws. This young man decided to donate his organs- the family is changing his wishes when he is not able to defend his decision. If someone does not want to donate, I am slightly disappointed that some people do not want to donate because of all the opportunities that they have with the tissues and bones. Having said that I dont believe that the families of people over 16 should have the right to over turn donation wishes of that person. just remember , there is probably a lot more involved here with the case, such as intubation of the kid, what treatment is being done to keep him alive for donations. Just remember when your donating your organs, you are going thru a proccess when your brain dead, at that time you really wont care but you will have the chance to save one if not several lives. Thats awesome.




They could incorporate the whole thing into obamacare. The IRS could offset outstanding taxes with a couple of organs. After a few years of disastrous results, the fed govt could start a reform bill and bring new meaning to "kick the can down the road"


I'm pretty sure I shouldn't have laughed when I read this. Serious topic, and unfortunately a suggestion that might also be taken seriously if the Obama-ites get their hands on it. Still pretty darned funny, though. :-)

The Big Dog's back

Funny, because Obamacare doesn't kick the can down the road.


I tuned in to Rush Limbag the other day for a few laughs. Heard a couple times a commercial come on for tax debt relief. Guy was saying he was lax on his income tax, was in debt over $90,000 in back taxes. Got it settled for $4500. with the IRS. Somehow, someway, repubaggers would even figure a way out of that. Besides, who in the heck would want a shriveled old heart?

Pterocarya frax...

Anyone that would sell their organs for profit has no soul. Yes, that is directed at a couple of you.


I worked at clevelad clinic in organ transplant. I've also dealt with these agencies that ask families to donate organs. PUSHY, RUDE, INCONSIDERATE.

Hope nobody I know ever needs an organ donated. I know I will never donate because the agencies that seek out the organs are vultures!


They probably do seem like vultures, particularly to a family that's just suffered a tragedy and hasn't even begun to grieve. But I don't think they're REALLY vultures. I think they're really DESPERATE.

With the shortages of organs and the waiting lists for each, people die every day after living in the impossible situation where they have to hope somebody else dies just so that they can live. The short window of time the patient has left, and the even shorter window for "harvesting," pretty much necessitates the push from the agencies.

I've read many stories from families of donors that say the donations gave them some sense of peace as well as the comforting notion that at least a part of their loved one lives on. That's undoubtedly true, at least eventually. It's also not something they're capable of thinking about in the first moments of impending loss.

I still support organ donation, but then I've made it abundantly clear not just on my license but with a Living Will. That's partly because I want to be sure it happens, but it's MOSTLY because I don't want any of MY loved ones to be forced to say either yes or no under such stressful circumstances!


Perfectly stated!!!


Shortages are caused by government price controls for which you've stated support, Sam.


Honestly, the best thing anyone can do is be an organ donor. You can save a lot of lives. Your corpse isn't what goes to heaven anyhow.

Be an organ donor. Save lives.


I can't help but judge but many on the waiting list are there because of poor choices made in their lives. I can only hope that my organs go to someone who has lived a fairly clean life. If they are a bad person I hope I'll be able to shut my organds down.