Would you donate an organ to your boss?
iframe code: A kidney donor has been making headlines this week after filing a complaint with the New York State Human Rights Commission against her former employer; the donor, Debbie Stevens, claims she was fired soon after donating a kidney to a network that allowed her boss to move to the top of the waiting list.
Stevens has told various media outlets that she has no regrets about donating the organ but was fired after she complained about the way the company treated her when she was still recuperating from the transplant surgery last year: pushing her to return to work too quickly, transferring her to another location, and ultimately, letting her go.
Her boss, Jackie Brucia, told CBS News, “She did a wonderful thing for me. I wish her the best.” Atlantic Automotive Group in West Islip, NY, where Stevens worked, called the filed complaint a “groundless claim.”
What’s troubling to me, however, is how a workplace could allow employees to put themselves in this position in the first place. Bosses aren’t allowed to ask for dates, so why should they be able to ask for organs?
“There’s a huge power differential between boss and employee,” said Dr. Arthur Caplan, a professor of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. “You have to make sure there’s no coercion.” If Stevens, for example, was told she’d need to donate her kidney to retain her job or obtain a promotion, that would be illegal.
If she gave her organ willingly, however, Caplan doesn’t see an ethical or legal problem.
“Strangers rarely donate organs to others when they’re still living,” he added, “so most organ donations are based on complicated relationships.”
Should a pastor encourage a church member to donate to another member of his flock? Should a child who donates an organ to a parent expect to be rewarded through a hefty inheritance? What about that husband who sued his ex-wife for the return of his kidney after he found out she was having an affair?
He didn’t win.
“Gift givers, including those who donate organs, have to go in with their eyes open,” Caplan said. “They need to understand that they may get gratitude or may not.” And the donation comes with no guarantees like job security or a lifelong relationship with the organ recipient.
Most likely, Caplan said, the ethics complaint will be dismissed, but Atlantic Automotive Group may decide to proffer a settlement in the meantime just to get rid of the publicity.
What do you think? Should companies allow employees to donate organs to their bosses? Answer the poll below, and give me your comments.
Deborah Kotz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.