Addressing current issues is something that SVU excels at and last night was no exception. Looking at the current state of organ donations here vs that in Europe makes a compelling case for presumed consent, at least to this writer. But it’s an issue that is perhaps the most personal one that people could have – and as such is highly controversial.
After a dare gone wrong, a young girl named Zoe is pronounced brain dead. Her parents, as if it weren’t devastating enough to lose your daughter, discover that the Doctor had taken Zoe’s organs moments after she was declared dead. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) happens to be in the hospital at the time and rushes to stop the organs from leaving. This was just completely heartbreaking – she had to literally pull a container with a heart out of a helicopter – the pilot begging her to let him take the heart to a waiting boy, even offering to turn himself in afterwards. But Olivia makes the difficult choice – and not one I think I could have. You certainly don’t want to put parents who’ve lost a child through anything more, but to not take life-saving measures for another child? The law is black and white – the ethics anything but.
When the team looks into the doctor they discover that she’s been forging consent forms on her patients – 31 of them – in order to provide organ donations without asking the parent’s permission. When ADA Stone (Philip Winchester) takes over to head towards prosecution we get to the crux of the problem surrounding everyone that’s involved. He goes to visit Zoe’s parents and explains what they’ve discovered, and in telling them he’s still deciding whether to move forward he says, “There is the ethical question of whether her actions may have saved the lives of other children.” Zoe’s mother is quick to retort, “Don’t. Just don’t. You think this is ethical? She stole my child’s body parts.”Only the doctor and the parents see this clear cut – although the father does seems to regret their decision to withhold the organs from other children.
Despite the SVU team being reluctant to prosecute this doctor, they continue investigating – turning up that her son had actually died because he couldn’t get a heart transplant in time. Stone is able to use this information in court to show that her actions were selfishly motivated, not just that of a doctor trying to save lives. I disagree with this – even if it came from a personal reason- the intent was still to save lives. The jury finds her guilty – maybe the first time I’ve wished Stone wasn’t such a good prosecutor.
At the end of the episode we get the heart wrenching news that the little boy Zoe’s heart had been intended for had died waiting for another heart.
The writing team did a fantastic job this week – we truly were able to see all sides of the argument. The side that wishes we had presumed consent as they do in so many countries in Europe – parents having to actively deny consent to stop organ donation. And the side that says – this is your body, your child’s body – and no one should be able to do anything with it without your affirmative consent. No matter how the scale falls, someone gets hurt.
*In the bar Stone opened up to Bensen, telling her about when his father died – about spending days by his side at the hospital, only to be in the cafeteria when he actually passed. It’s good to see the writers giving us more depth on his character.
*Bensen arguing with the helicopter pilot as he begged to take the heart – Mariska Hargitay really brought the pain to life, you could just feel how truly torn up she was. A shining moment for her acting.
SVU next airs March 21st at 9/8c
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