How do you ask grieving parents to donate their son’s penis?

The body of a brain-dead potential organ donor lies covered on a bed at Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis.
STAT NEWS | Eric Boodman

He had already been talking to the grieving family for hours when he got the call from his bosses at the New England Organ Bank.

The patient who had just died, they said, looked like a good candidate to donate more than just his kidneys and lungs. Would the family be willing to donate his penis?

Even under normal circumstances, Daniel Miller-Dempsey’s job can sound impossible. When a patient is declared brain-dead, but is still on life support, he asks the family about removing their loved one’s organs and putting them into other people. The patient’s lungs are still breathing, the heart still pumping, the skin still pulsing with blood. “You have to have a family get to a point where they understand that [their loved one] has died, even though they look the same as they did the day before,” he said.  

This kind of conversation doesn’t faze Miller-Dempsey. He has been working at the organ bank for 16 years, ever since he donated part of his own liver to his dad, at 24. His colleagues are just as unflappable when asking about donations of hearts, livers, and other organs that remain comfortably hidden beneath layers of muscle and skin. Continue reading
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