Thursday, August 21, 2008

Harvesting Organs When Brain Function is Still Present

The normal procedure for organ harvesting is from patients who has been certified brain death. In the United States, the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA) set two criteria for death; (1) sustained irreversible of circulatory and respiratory function, and (2) all function of the brain including the brain stem is considered non-existent.

In recent years, there is a movement to harvest organs when the heart stops but brain function is still present. This is usually in patients that are severely ill and are going to die. This is termed "Non-Heart-Beating" or "Cardiac Death" organ donation. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre allocated 2 minutes after the heart stops before organ harvesting can begin. There is some uncertainty about this and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) extended the time to 5 minutes. However there have been documented cases of "autoresuscitation" i.e. the heart restarts after 10 minutes of no heart beats. The University of Zurich allows 10 minutes. This is a scary development because doctors are allowing patients to die so that organ harvesting can take place. read more

Dr Mark M Boucek reported the first heart transplants in three children after cardiac failure rather than brain death in August 14, 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The transplants were done in Denver's Children Hospital in Denver. The time between the heart stops and organ harvesting is...75 seconds! read more

This is a scary development because the ends has justified the means. While it cannot be denied that there is a need for human organs, these organs must be harvested from patients who are already brain dead, not those allowed to die.

What do you think?

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