The Death of Number 215
Lahey Surgeon Kills Healthy Liver Donor
Or, as The Boston Globe put it on June 12, 2010: “At the Lahey, a Stunning, Rare Tragedy… Donor Dies in Liver Transplant Attempt… A man who agreed to donate part of his liver to help a sick relative died while undergoing the transplant procedure at Lahey Clinic in Burlington two weeks ago, the hospital said…”
Two weeks ago.
Lahey, like most top-drawer medical research centers, has an institutional knack for damage control, honed by years of experience. And the tenor of the headline shows that the hometown rag has an institutional understanding of who butters the bread in Boston. The story of the death of Paul Douglas Hawks, 56, of Tampa, Florida, at the Lahey Clinic was buried in the Burlington Hyperlocal section of Boston.com, along with news of neighborhood real estate deals and progress in repaving a section of Route 128.
Paul Hawks, who walked into the lobby of the Lahey Clinic under his own steam on a mission of mercy, was wheeled out the back door under a sheet marked Property of Tufts Medical School. He is buried in Hillsboro Memorial Gardens in Tampa, Florida. The notes on his online guest book from Lorraine Hawks, his wife of 35 years, are heart breaking:
“Our first Valentine day apart. I will miss the flowers, cards and chocolates you would always have for me. You never, ever forgot. I miss you.”
“My darling husband a year gone already i know your happy up there I love and miss you every day.”
“Yesterday would have been our 36th wedding anniversary. I feel so lost with out you, It is so hard being without you… I will always love and miss you.”
Lorraine will tell you, though, that “there is no heart more broken than the hearts of Paul and Charlotte, the parents.”
Falling down an elevator shaft or being eaten by sharks is a stunning, rare tragedy. What happened to Paul D. Hawks was entirely preventable—even predictable—given the recklessness involved; a criminal combination of arrogance and negligence, de facto if not de jure. And, while medical tragedies are certainly stunning when it happens to you, they are not at all rare. People are needlessly killed and injured by American medicine every day.
You just don’t hear very much about it.