Ethical Considerations Informed Consent Psychosocial Risks

Unintended Consequences


…former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson that, after deciding to kill himself last Thursday, he shot himself in the chest, apparently so that his brain could remain intact for similar examination.

This intent, strongly implied by text messages Duerson sent to family members soon before his death, has injected a new degree of fear in the minds of many football players and their families, according to interviews with them Sunday. To this point, the roughly 20 N.F.L. veterans found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy — several of whom committed suicide — died unaware of the disease clawing at their brains, how the protein deposits and damaged neurons contributed to their condition.

Duerson, 50, was the first player to die after implying that brain trauma experienced on the football field would be partly responsible for his death.

Because of the trauma I experienced after my kidney donation, including the transplant industry’s complete abandonment, I took it upon myself to look beyond the headlines and marketing material and began digging into published research articles. This lead to a closer examination of the history of the US transplant industry, including the activities of DHHS, HRSA, ACOT and OPTN/UNOS.

With each revelation, I was struck anew with horror and betrayal at what had been done to me without my consent. The adrenal dysfunction, pancreatits, higher risk of end stage renal disease, chylous ascites, cardiac issues, lack of long-term data, etc. By the time of my six month follow-up appointment, I was so terrified of how my body had been compromised that I couldn’t even look at my lab results.

I imagine this is, to some extent, how Duerson felt when he realized his football career may have permanently and crucially damaged his brain. He was prepared for the broken bones, strained ligaments and separated shoulders, but memory loss and unfixable depression? That simply wasn’t part of the contract.

Some players have, so far, been able to deny this phenomenon (just like some living donors I encounter, but that’s a post for a different day), but Duerson had to listen to the stories of the ‘old-timers’, how they ended up broke and homeless, and he saw first-hand how this brain damage could ruin a person’s life. His feelings of helplessness and futility must’ve been unbearable.

So far I’ve been lucky; my health and remaining kidney are holding steady. But I’m not naive enough to think I’m home free, and that’s why I have nothing but compassion for Duerson and his loved ones. I understand.

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