More stories of bureacracies run wild

My mother-in-law’s parents died in Auschwitz.  She wasn’t around for that horror because her parents, in a tremendous (and prescient) sacrifice, boarded her onto the Kindertransport, which took young children out of Nazi countries.  As with my mother-in-law, most of these children never saw their parents again.  Because the fact that she had to flee her country deprived her of the natural opportunities of an education, my mother-in-law became entitled to reparations.  (My Dad, too, would have been entitled to such reparations if he hadn’t been such a stubborn Communist that he refused to apply, but that’s another long, sad story.)

Anyway, the reparation money eventually came through and ended up in an Austrian bank.  For more than two years now, my mother in law has been trying to get that money out of the bank and transferred to her here — without any success.

The bank has a continually growing list of bureaucratic assigns which, aggregated, create a Sisyphean task that can never be fulfilled.  They keep asking her to prove that she is who she says she is, and with every new proof, they ask her to prove that the proof is real.  The bank’s most recent pronouncement, which arrived in today’s mail, is to the effect that, per an EU regulation that went into effect last November (two years after she started trying to get her money), the bank is entitled to a 1,000 Euro fee for the act of giving her own money back to her.

My mother-in-law thinks that this is an anti-Semitic plot to take advantage of an aged refugee, and steal her money.  I think that it’s a petty bureaucratic scheme by which a bank manages to use its rules and the EU’s rules take advantage of a far-away depositor, first by refusing to release the money altogether and then by hanging onto a handsome profit for returning her own property to her.  Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the bank’s delay in processing her request occurred precisely because its administrators knew about the upcoming EU regulation that would give them a 1,000 Euro windfall.

I mention this whole story, which nicely seems to sum up the inhumanity that characterizes so many European bureaucracies (just think about the pain-in-the-neck process of checking into a European hotel hotel), because I read a story out of England that takes this insane commitment to process to an extreme degree:

When Rachel Leake developed complications from diabetes, her selfless daughter tried to donate one of her kidneys to save her.

But 21-year-old Laura Ashworth died suddenly before the arrangements could be completed – and her mother has now been told the organs will go to strangers instead.

Family and friends, who all knew of Laura’s desire to be a live donor, tried to get the authorities to change the decision.

They even enlisted the help of local MP Gerry Sutcliffe to lobby health ministers on Mrs Leake’s behalf, but to no avail.

Laura died after suffering massive brain damage when she stopped breathing because of a suspected asthma attack.

One of Laura’s kidneys went to a man in Sheffield and the second to a man in London. Her liver was given to a 15-year-old girl.

“I am angry, really angry,” said Mrs Leake, who is 39. “I am not finding comfort at the moment in the fact that she helped three people.”


Mrs Leake said she still did not know why her request to receive her daughter’s organs was refused.

She said: “Everyone has gone mad and everyone is disgusted. The thing that hurts the most is how Laura would feel. She would be devastated that she was not able to help me.

“My sister has now written down her wishes that I get her kidney if anything was to happen to her. I will not let this go – there could be another person it could happen to.”

A spokesman for UK Transplant said the final decision in this case was taken by the Human Tissue Authority.

“They were the ones who in this circumstance were asked if the daughter’s kidney could go to the mother,” he said. “Their judgement, under the law, was that it was not allowed to happen.”

No one at the Human Tissue Authority was available for comment.