Sixty-one-year-old Darryl Young received a heart transplant in September 2018 but never woke up, and had been in a vegetative state ever since. An investigation by non-profit newsroom ProPublica revealed the health team at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center was fixated on keeping him alive, rather than his quality of life or his family's wishes, because of worries about the transplant program's survival rate.

Medical ethicist Arthur Caplan told Boston Public Radio on Thursday the story is not only "cruel," but it presents a danger to public perception about donor programs.

"This is so horrible. I got a chance to see the records," said Caplan. "It's a disgrace both to transplant ethics but also just to compassionate medicine."

"It's the kind of thing that frightens people away from being organ donors. ... It's just as bad for the family, they're waiting, waiting, visiting, thinking maybe there's hope. [The doctors are] not saying he's going to be gone this week. It's cruel."

According to the ProPublica investigation, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which tracks outcomes of all organ transplants, set quality standards in 2007 after a number of high profile mishaps at other hospitals. Under those rules, a one-year survival rate was an acceptable number. Young's case at Newark Beth Israel showed how doctors appeared to tailor medical decisions in an effort to ensure their transplant program's existence, despite a downturn in its survival rate, according to ProPublica.

Caplan is the Drs. William F and Virginia Connolly Mitty Chair, and director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. He’s also the co-host of the Everyday Ethics podcast.