Many believe that the ethical problems of donation after cardiocirculatory death (DCD) have been "worked out" and that it is unclear why DCD should be resisted. In this paper we will argue that DCD donors may not yet be dead, and therefore that organ donation during DCD may violate the dead donor rule. We first present a description of the process of DCD and the standard ethical rationale for the practice. We then present our concerns with DCD, including the following: irreversibility of absent circulation has not occurred and the many attempts to claim it has have all failed; conflicts of interest at all steps in the DCD process, including the decision to withdraw life support before DCD, are simply unavoidable; potentially harmful premortem interventions to preserve organ utility are not justifiable, even with the help of the principle of double effect; claims that DCD conforms with the intent of the law and current accepted medical standards are misleading and inaccurate; and consensus statements by respected medical groups do not change these arguments due to their low quality including being plagued by conflict of interest. Moreover, some arguments in favor of DCD, while likely true, are "straw-man arguments," such as the great benefit of organ donation. The truth is that honesty and trustworthiness require that we face these problems instead of avoiding them. We believe that DCD is not ethically allowable because it abandons the dead donor rule, has unavoidable conflicts of interests, and implements premortem interventions which can hasten death. These important points have not been, but need to be fully disclosed to the public and incorporated into fully informed consent. These are tall orders, and require open public debate. Until this debate occurs, we call for a moratorium on the practice of DCD.
Dead donor rule; Death; Donation after cardiac death; Organ donation
Recent commentaries by Verheijde et al, Evans and Potts suggesting that donation after cardiac death practices routinely violate the dead donor rule are based on flawed presumptions. Cell biology, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, critical care life support technologies, donation and transplantation continue to inform concepts of life and death. The impact of oxygen deprivation to cells, organs and the brain is discussed in relation to death as a biological transition. In the face of advancing organ support and replacement technologies, the reversibility of cardiac arrest is now purely related to the context in which it occurs, in association to the availability and application of support systems to maintain oxygenated circulation. The 'complete and irreversible' lexicon commonly used in death discussions and legal statutes are ambiguous, indefinable and should be replaced by accurate terms. Criticism of controlled DCD on the basis of violating the dead donor rule, where autoresuscitation has not been described beyond 2 minutes, in which life support is withdrawn and CPR is not provided, is not valid. However, any post mortem intervention that re-establishes brain blood flow should be prohibited. In comparison to traditional practice, organ donation has forced the clarification of the diagnostic criteria for death and improved the rigour of the determinations.
BACKGROUND: Organ transplantation is the treatment of choice for patients with end-stage organ failure, but the supply of organs has not increased to meet demand. This study was undertaken to determine the potential for kidney donation from patients with irremediable brain injuries who do not meet the criteria for brain death and who experience cardiopulmonary arrest after withdrawal of ventilatory support (controlled non-heart-beating organ donors). METHODS: The charts of 209 patients who died during 1995 in the Emergency Department and the intensive care unit at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary were reviewed. The records of patients who met the criteria for controlled non-heart-beating organ donation were studied in detail. The main outcome measure was the time from discontinuation of ventilation until cardiopulmonary arrest. RESULTS: Seventeen potential controlled non-heart-beating organ donors were identified. Their mean age was 62 (standard deviation 19) years. Twelve of the patients (71%) had had a cerebrovascular accident, and more than half (10 [59%]) did not meet the criteria for brain death because one or more brain stem reflexes were present. At the time of withdrawal of ventilatory support, the mean serum creatinine level was 71 (29) mumol/L, mean urine output was 214 (178) mL/h, and 9 (53%) patients were receiving inotropic agents. The mean time from withdrawal of ventilatory support to cardiac arrest was 2.3 (5.0) hours; 13 of the 17 patients died within 1 hour, and all but one died within 6 hours. For the year for which charts were reviewed, 33 potential conventional donors (people whose hearts were beating) were identified, of whom 21 (64%) became donors. On the assumption that 40% of the potential controlled non-heart-beating donors would not in fact have been donors (25% because of family refusal and 15% because of nonviability of the organs), there might have been 10 additional donors, which would have increased the supply of cadaveric kidneys for transplantation by 48%. INTERPRETATION: A significant number of viable kidneys could be retrieved and transplanted if eligibility for kidney donation was extended to include controlled non-heart-beating organ donors.
This pro/con debate explores the ethical issues surrounding nonheart-beating organ donation (NHBD), a source of considerable controversy. It is estimated that NHBD can increase the number of organs available for transplant by 25% at a time of great need. However, should NHBD be ethically acceptable? In support of NHBD, it may be acceptable practice if there is a separation of the rationale to withdraw life support/to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation from the decision to recover organs, if no conflicts of interest exist, if a waiting time precluding spontaneous return of circulation is included, and if NHBD conforms to a standardized protocol. Against NHBD, there are questions regarding the ambiguity and cultural perspectives of death, regarding whether a separation of rationale between withdrawal and donation is sufficient to preclude conflicts of interest, and regarding whether variable protocols arise that subordinate the patient to the goal of donation. Such concerns suggest NHBD may damage the trust in patient–physician relationships and may adversely affect organ donation rates.
bioethics; critical care; death; nonheart-beating organ donation; organ donation
These recommendations are the result of a national, multidisciplinary, year-long process to discuss whether and how to proceed with organ donation after cardiocirculatory death (DCD) in Canada. A national forum was held in February 2005 to discuss and develop recommendations on the principles, procedures and practice related to DCD, including ethical and legal considerations. At the forum's conclusion, a strong majority of participants supported proceeding with DCD programs in Canada. The forum also recognized the need to formulate and emphasize core values to guide the development of programs and protocols based on the medical, ethical and legal framework established at this meeting.
Although end-of-life care should routinely include the opportunity to donate organs and tissues, the duty of care toward dying patients and their families remains the dominant priority of health care teams. The complexity and profound implications of death are recognized and should be respected, along with differing personal, ethnocultural and religious perspectives on death and donation. Decisions around withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies, management of the dying process and the determination of death by cardiocirculatory criteria should be separate from and independent of donation and transplant processes.
The recommendations in this report are intended to guide individual programs, regional health authorities and jurisdictions in the development of DCD protocols. Programs will develop based on local leadership and advance planning that includes education and engagement of stakeholders, mechanisms to assure safety and quality and public information. We recommend that programs begin with controlled DCD within the intensive care unit where (after a consensual decision to withdraw life-sustaining therapy) death is anticipated, but has not yet occurred, and unhurried consent discussions can be held. Uncontrolled donation (where death has occurred after unanticipated cardiac arrest) should only be considered after a controlled DCD program is well established. Although we recommend that programs commence with kidney donation, regional transplant expertise may guide the inclusion of other organs. The impact of DCD, including pre-and post-mortem interventions, on donor family experiences, organ availability, graft function and recipient survival should be carefully documented and studied.
Several hospitals have been developing programmes for organ donation after cardiac death. Such programmes offer options for organ donation to patients who do not meet brain-death criteria but wish to donate their organs after withdrawal of life-support. These programmes also increase the available organ pool at a time when demand exceeds supply. Given that potential donors are managed in intensive care units, intensivists will be key components of these programmes. Donation after cardiac death clearly carries a number of important ethical issues with it. In the present issue of Critical Care two established groups debate the ethical acceptability of using medications/interventions in potential organ donors for the sole purpose of making the organs more viable. Such debates will be an increasingly common component of intensivists' future practice.
To expand the donor pool, organ donation after cardiac death (DCD) has emerged. However, kidneys from DCD donors have a period of long warm ischemia between cardiac arrest and the harvesting of the organs. Recently, we used extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to minimize ischemic injury during 'no touch' periods in a Maastricht category II DCD donor and performed two successful kidney transplantations. The kidneys were procured from a 49-yr-old male donor. The warm ischemia time was 31 min, and the time of maintained circulation using ECMO was 7 hr 55 min. The cold ischemia time was 9 hr 15 min. The kidneys were transplanted into two recipients and functioned immediately after reperfusion. The grafts showed excellent function at one and three months post-transplantation; serum creatinine (SCr) levels were 1.0 mg/dL and 0.8 mg/dL and the estimated glomerular filtration rates (eGFR) were 63 mL/min/1.73 m2 and 78 mL/min/1.73 m2 in the first recipient, and SCr levels were 1.1 mg/dL and 1.0 mg/dL and eGFR were 56 mL/min/1.73 m2 and 64 mL/min/1.73 m2 in the second recipient. In conclusion, it is suggested that kidney transplantation from a category II DCD donor assisted by ECMO is a reasonable modality for expanding donor pool.
Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation; Kidney Transplantation; Organ Donation After Cardiac Death
Organ donation after cardiac or circulatory death (DCD) has been introduced to increase the supply of transplantable organs. In this paper, we argue that the recovery of viable organs useful for transplantation in DCD is not compatible with the dead donor rule and we explain the consequential ethical and legal ramifications. We also outline serious deficiencies in the current consent process for DCD with respect to disclosure of necessary elements for voluntary informed decision making and respect for the donor's autonomy. We compare two alternative proposals for increasing organ donation consent in society: presumed consent and mandated choice. We conclude that proceeding with the recovery of transplantable organs from decedents requires a paradigm change in the ethics of organ donation. The paradigm change to ensure the legitimacy of DCD practice must include: (1) societal agreement on abandonment of the dead donor rule, (2) legislative revisions reflecting abandonment of the dead donor rule, and (3) requirement of mandated choice to facilitate individual participation in organ donation and to ensure that decisions to participate are made in compliance with the societal values of respect for autonomy and self-determination.
There are not enough solid organs available to meet the needs of patients with organ failure. Thousands of patients every year die on the waiting lists for transplantation. Yet there is one currently available, underutilized, potential source of organs. Many patients die in intensive care following withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment whose organs could be used to save the lives of others. At present the majority of these organs go to waste.
In this paper we consider and evaluate a range of ways to improve the number and quality of organs available from this group of patients. Changes to consent arrangements (for example conscription of organs after death) or changes to organ donation practice could dramatically increase the numbers of organs available, though they would conflict with currently accepted norms governing transplantation.
We argue that one alternative, Organ Donation Euthanasia, would be a rational improvement over current practice regarding withdrawal of life support. It would give individuals the greatest chance of being able to help others with their organs after death. It would increase patient autonomy. It would reduce the chance of suffering during the dying process. We argue that patients should be given the choice of whether and how they would like to donate their organs in the event of withdrawal of life support in intensive care.
Continuing current transplantation practice comes at the cost of death and prolonged organ failure. We should seriously consider all of the alternatives.
organ transplantation ethics; medical ethics; euthanasia; tissue and organ procurement/ethics; tissue donors/supply & distribution
The disparity between the number of patients waiting for an organ transplant and availability of donor organs increases each year in Canada. Donation after cardiac death (DCD), following withdrawal of life support in patients with hopeless prognoses, is a means of addressing the shortage with the potential to increase the number of transplantable organs.
We conducted a retrospective, single-centre chart review of organs donated after cardiac death to the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at the London Health Sciences Centre between July 2006 and December 2007. In total, 34 solid organs (24 kidneys and 10 livers) were procured from 12 DCD donors.
The mean age of the donors was 38 (range 18–59) years. The causes of death were craniocerebral trauma (n = 7), cerebrovascular accident (n = 4) and cerebral hypoxia (n = 1). All 10 livers were transplanted at our centre, as were 14 of the 24 kidneys; 10 kidneys were transplanted at other centres. The mean renal cold ischemia time was 6 (range 3–9.5) hours. Twelve of the 14 kidney recipients (86%) experienced delayed graft function, but all kidneys regained function. After 1-year follow-up, kidney function was good, with a mean serum creatinine level of 145 (range 107–220) μmol/L and a mean estimated creatinine clearance of 64 (range 41–96) mL/min. The mean liver cold ischemia time was 5.8 (range 5.5–8) hours. There was 1 case of primary nonfunction requiring retransplantation. The remaining 9 livers functioned well. One patient developed a biliary anastomotic stricture that resolved after endoscopic stenting. All liver recipients were alive after a mean follow-up of 11 (range 3–20) months. Since the inception of this DCD program, the number of donors referred to our centre has increased by 14%.
Our initial results compare favourably with those from the transplantation of organs procured from donors after brain death. Donation after cardiac death can be an important means of increasing the number of organs available for transplant, and its widespread implementation in Canada should be encouraged.
Organs for donation are in short supply in the United Kingdom, resulting in allegations that relatives of potential donors are not being asked for consent. Legislation on "required request" has been proposed to overcome this. The incidence, causes, complications, and patterns of organ donation in brain stem dead patients in one referral centre were studied over 12 months. Data were collected on all patients fulfilling criteria for brain stem death or considered suitable for donating organs after circulatory arrest. Forty two patients fulfilled the criteria for brain stem death, and in 10 further patients circulatory arrest occurred before formal testing was finished. The major causes of brain stem death were head injury (28) and intracranial haemorrhage (17). Consent to organ donation was obtained for 24 potential donors, and organs were donated by 23 of them. Twenty nine patients did not donate organs. The commonest reasons for failure to donate were medical unsuitability (13) and the coroner not releasing the body (eight). Consent was not sought in three cases, and the relatives refused consent in the remaining five. This study suggests that required request will not considerably increase the supply of donor organs.
Although altruism is a key principle in our current organ donation and transplantation system, the meanings and implications of the term have been widely debated. Recently, a new type of living organ donation--anonymous and non-directed, also called living altruistic donation (LAD)--has brought the issue into sharper focus. Transplant physicians' views on altruism might influence their attitudes and actions toward living altruistic donors. This study aimed to explore such views among transplant physicians in France and Quebec.
A total of 27 French and 19 Quebec transplant physicians participated in individual, semi-structured interviews between October 2004 and December 2005. The majority of these participants associated altruism with gratuitousness and saw altruistic acts as multiple and varied, ranging from showing consideration to saving a person's life.
The transplant physicians' discourses on altruism were quite diverse, leading us to question the relevance of the concept in organ transplantation and the appropriateness of the term "living altruistic donation."
French law 2005-370 of April 22, 2005 (Leonetti's law) brings new rights to patients and clarifies medical practices regarding end of life care. This new law prohibits unreasonable obstinacy in investigations or therapeutics and authorizes the withholding or withdrawal of treatments when they appear "useless, disproportionate or having no other effect than solely the artificial preservation of life". Relief from pain is a fundamental right of patients. With regard to pain control, the law also allows doctors to dispense to patients "in an advanced or final phase of a serious and incurable affliction" anti-pain treatments as needed, even if these treatments, as a side effect, hasten their death. The drafting of advance directives regarding end of life constitutes a new right of patients. The decision to withdraw or withhold a treatment from a patient unable to express their will has to take into account the wishes they might have expressed through advance directives, and/or the wishes of a trusted person or, lastly, of the family. Before making any decision, physicians should respect a collegial medical procedure. Euthanasia defined as the act of terminating one's life on a patient's explicit request remains illegal.
Purpose of review
Hispanic individuals are disproportionately in need of donor organs and are less likely to consent to donation than their non-Hispanic counterparts. This review addresses psychological constructs including attitudes and beliefs surrounding organ donation within Hispanic communities and highlights the importance of women in the domain of organ donation.
Attitudes toward living and posthumous donation are favorable. Mistrust of the medical profession, concerns about religious acceptance of donation, perceptions of inequity in the distribution of donated organs, and the context in which donation requests typically are made serve as barriers to consent. Women are more likely to consent to donation than men.
Hispanic American groups are heterogeneous. Culturally-sensitive approaches to communicating a donation request must consider ethnic origin and language preference. Family discussion of donation should be encouraged by the medical community as part of health care decision making (independent of death or crisis); women may serve as an excellent bridge between healthcare providers and families in this regard.
Hispanic populations; organ donation; attitudes
The imbalance between supply of organs for transplantation and demand for them is widening. Although the current international drive to re-establish procurement via non-heart beating organ donation/donor (NHBOD) is founded therefore on necessity, the process may constitute a desirable outcome for patient and family when progression to brain stem death (BSD) does not occur and conventional organ retrieval from the beating heart donor is thereby prevented. The literature accounts of this practice, however, raise concerns that risk jeopardising professional and public confidence in the broader transplant programme. This article focuses on these clinical, ethical, and legal issues in the context of other approaches aimed at increasing donor numbers. The feasibility of introducing such an initiative will hinge on the ability to reassure patients, families, attendant staff, professional bodies, the wider public, law enforcement agencies, and the media that practitioners are working within explicit guidelines which are both ethically and legally defensible.
Transplantation is an effective, life-prolonging treatment for organ failure. Demand has steadily increased over the past decade, creating a shortage in the supply of organs. In addition, the number of deceased organ donors has reached a plateau.
Living-donor transplantation is increasingly an option, influenced by favourable clinical outcomes and increased waiting times at most transplant centres across North America. Living-donor kidney transplants have exceeded deceased-donor transplant rates at some centres.
Organ donations from living donors have challenged transplant programs to develop a framework for determining donor acceptability. After a multidisciplinary consensus-building process of discussion and debate, the Multi-Organ Transplant Program of the University Health Network in Toronto has developed ethical guidelines for these procedures. These proposed guidelines address ethical concerns related to selection criteria and procedures, voluntariness, informed consent and disclosure of risks and benefits to both donor and recipient.
To counter the shortage of kidney grafts in France, a non heart beating donor (NHBD) program has recently been implemented. The aim of this study was to describe this pilot program for kidney retrieval from "uncontrolled" NHBD meaning those for whom attempts of resuscitation after a witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (CA) have failed (Maastricht 1 and 2), in a centre previously trained for retrieval from brain dead donors.
A prospective, monocentric, descriptive study concerning NHBD referred to our institution from February 2007 to June 2008. The protocol includes medical transport of refractory CA under mechanical ventilation and external cardiac massage, kidney protection by insertion of an intraaortic double-balloon catheter (DBC) with perfusion of a hypothermic solution, kidney retrieval and kidney preservation in a hypothermic pulsatile perfusion machine.
122 potential NHBD were referred to our institution after a mean resuscitation attempt of 35 minutes (20–95). Regarding the contraindications, 63 were finally accepted and 56 had the DBC inserted. Organ retrieval was performed in 27 patients (43%) and 31 kidneys out of the 54 procured (57%) have been transplanted. Kidney transplantation exclusion was related to family refusal (n = 15), past medical history, time constraints, viral serology, high vascular ex vivo resistance of the graft and macroscopic abnormalities. The 31 kidneys exhibited an expected high delayed graft function rate (92%). Despite these initial results transplanted kidney had good creatinine clearance at six months (66 ± 24 ml/min) with a 89% graft survival rate at six months.
This study shows the feasibility and efficacy of an organ procurement program targeting NHBD allowing a 10% increase in the kidney transplantation rate over 17 months. With a six months follow-up period, the results of transplanted kidney function were excellent.
The legislation called the Transplantation of Human Organ Act (THO) was passed in India in 1994 to streamline organ donation and transplantation activities. Broadly, the act accepted brain death as a form of death and made the sale of organs a punishable offence. With the acceptance of brain death, it became possible to not only undertake kidney transplantations but also start other solid organ transplants like liver, heart, lungs, and pancreas. Despite the THO legislation, organ commerce and kidney scandals are regularly reported in the Indian media. In most instances, the implementation of the law has been flawed and more often than once its provisions have been abused. Parallel to the living related and unrelated donation program, the deceased donation program has slowly evolved in a few states. In approximately one-third of all liver transplants, the organs have come from the deceased donor program as have all the hearts and pancreas transplants. In these states, a few hospitals along with committed NGOs have kept the momentum of the deceased donor program. The MOHAN Foundation (NGO based in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh) has facilitated 400 of the 1,300 deceased organ transplants performed in the country over the last 14 years. To overcome organ shortage, developed countries are re-looking at the ethics of unrelated programs and there seems to be a move towards making this an acceptable legal alternative. The supply of deceased donors in these countries has peaked and there has been no further increase over the last few years. India is currently having a deceased donation rate of 0.05 to 0.08 per million population. We need to find a solution on how we can utilize the potentially large pool of trauma-related brain deaths for organ donation. This year in the state of Tamil Nadu, the Government has passed seven special orders. These orders are expected to streamline the activity of deceased donors and help increase their numbers. Recently, on July 30, 2008, the Government brought in a few new amendments as a Gazette with the purpose of putting a stop to organ commerce. The ethics of commerce in organ donation and transplant tourism has been widely criticized by international bodies. The legal and ethical principles that we follow universally with organ donation and transplantation are also important for the future as these may be used to resolve our conflicts related to emerging sciences such as cloning, tissue engineering, and stem cells.
Cadaver transplantation; ethics in transplantation; related donor
Questionnaires were administered to 108 university psychology students to investigate attitudes and behaviour related to organ donation. Three groups (committed, uncommitted and opposed) were identified. A multivariate analysis of variance showed that, compared with uncommitted donors, committed donors felt better informed about organ donation, had discussed donation more often with family members and knew more people who had signed donor cards. The subjects in the opposed group and those in the uncommitted group cited different reasons for not signing a donor card. Empathy, religious beliefs and attitudes about death did not affect willingness to donate. Analyses of the interaction between willingness to donate one's own organs and willingness to donate those of a family member revealed a monotonic increase in willingness to donate the organs of a family member as the type of recipient became more personally relevant. Our findings indicate that when health care professionals request donor organs the potential recipients must be presented to the potential donors in a personally relevant manner. Educational programs must be developed to train medical personnel in how to effectively ask for organs without coercing the potential donor or invading the privacy of the potential recipient.
Objectives To determine the true potential for solid organ donation from deceased heartbeating donors and the reasons for non-donation from potential donors.
Design An audit of all deaths in intensive care units, 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2005. The study was hierarchic, in that information was sought on whether or not brain stem testing was carried out; if so, whether or not organ donation was considered; if so whether or not the next of kin were approached; if so, whether or not consent was given; if so, whether or not organ donation took place.
Setting 341 intensive care units in 284 hospitals in the United Kingdom.
Participants 46 801 dead patients, leading to 2740 potential heartbeating solid organ donors and 1244 actual donors.
Main outcome measures Proportion of potential deceased heartbeating donors considered for organ donation, proportion of families who denied consent, and proportion of potential donors who became organ donors.
Results Over the two years of the study, 41% of the families of potential donors denied consent. The refusal rate for families of potential donors from ethnic minorities was twice that for white potential donors, but the age and sex of the potential donor did not affect the refusal rate. In 15% of families of potential donors there was no record of the next of kin being approached for permission for organ donation.
Conclusions Intensive care units are extremely good in considering possible organ donation from suitable patients. The biggest obstacle to improving the organ donation rate is the high proportion of relatives who deny consent.
Our objective was to investigate whether a consensus exists between the general public and health care providers regarding the reasoning and values at stake on the subject of life-sustaining treatment.
A postal questionnaire was sent to a random sample of members of the adult population (n = 989) and to a random sample of intensive care doctors and neurosurgeons (n = 410) practicing in Sweden in 2004. The questionnaire was based on a case involving a severely ill patient and presented arguments for and against withholding and withdrawing treatment, and providing treatment that might hasten death.
Approximately 70% of the physicians and 51% of the general public responded. A majority of doctors (82.3%) stated that they would withhold treatment, whereas a minority of the general public (40.2%) would do so; the arguments forwarded (for instance, belief that the first task of health care is to save life) and considerations regarding quality of life differed significantly between the two groups. Most physicians (94.1%) and members of the general public (77.7%) were prepared to withdraw treatment, and most (95.1% of physicians and 82% of members of the general public) agreed that sedation should be provided.
There are indeed considerable differences in how physicians and the general public assess and reason in critical care situations, but the more hopelessly ill the patient became the more the groups' assessments tended to converge, although they prioritized different arguments. In order to avoid unnecessary dispute and miscommunication, it is important that health care providers be aware of the public's views, expectations, and preferences.
A series of papers in Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine (PEHM) have recently disputed whether non-heart beating organ donors are alive and whether non-heart beating organ donation (NHBD) contravenes the dead donor rule. Several authors who argue that NHBD involves harvesting organs from live patients appeal to "strong irreversibility" (death beyond the reach of resuscitative efforts to restore life) as a necessary criterion that patients must meet before physicians can declare them to be dead. Sam Shemie, who defends our current practice of NHBD, holds that in fact physicians consider patients to be dead or not according to physician intention to resuscitate or not.
We suggest that criteria for a concept are not necessarily truth conditions for assertions involving the concept. Hence, non-heart beating donors may be declared dead without meeting the criterion of strong irreversibility even though strong irreversibility is implied by the concept of death. Our perception that a concept applies in a given case is determined not by the concept itself but by our necessary skill and judgment when using it. In the case of deciding that a patient is dead, such judgment is learned by physicians as they learn the practice of medicine and may vary according to circumstances. Current practice of NHBD can therefore be defended without abandoning death as an empirical concept, as Shemie appears to do. We conclude that the dead donor rule continues to be viable and ought to be retained so as to guarantee what the public most cares about as regards organ donation: that physicians can be trusted to make determinations of eligibility for organ donation in the interests of patients and not for other purposes such as increasing the availability of organs.
Requirements for organ donation after cardiac or imminent death have been introduced to address the transplantable organs shortage in the United States. Organ procurement organizations (OPOs) increasingly use the Internet for organ donation consent.
An analysis of OPO Web sites available to the public for enrollment and consent for organ donation. The Web sites and consent forms were examined for the minimal information recommended by the United States Department of Health and Human Services for informed consent. Content scores were calculated as percentages of data elements in four information categories: donor knowledge, donor consent reinforcement, donation promotion, and informed consent.
There were 60 Web sites for organ donation enrollment serving the 52 states. The median percent (10 percentile-90 percentile) content scores of the Web sites for donor knowledge, donor consent reinforcement, and donation promotion were 33% (20–47), 79% (57–86), and 75% (50–100), respectively. The informed consent score was 0% (0–33). The content scores for donor knowledge and informed consent were significantly lower than donor consent reinforcement and donation promotion for all Web sites (P < .05). The content scores for the four categories were similar among the 11 regions of the United Network for Organ Sharing.
The Web sites and consent forms for public enrollment in organ donation do not fulfill the necessary requirements for informed consent. The Web sites predominantly provide positive reinforcement and promotional information rather than the transparent disclosure of organ donation process. Independent regulatory oversight is essential to ensure that Internet enrollment for organ donation complies with legal and ethical standards for informed consent.
A recent commentary defends 1) the concept of 'brain arrest' to explain what brain death is, and 2) the concept that death occurs at 2–5 minutes after absent circulation. I suggest that both these claims are flawed. Brain arrest is said to threaten life, and lead to death by causing a secondary respiratory then cardiac arrest. It is further claimed that ventilation only interrupts this way that brain arrest leads to death. These statements imply that brain arrest is not death itself. Brain death is a devastating state that leads to death when intensive care, which replaces some of the brain's vital functions such as breathing, is withdrawn and circulation stops resulting in irreversible loss of integration of the organism. Circulatory death is said to occur at 2–5 minutes after absent circulation because, in the context of DCD, the intent is to not attempt reversal of the absent circulation. No defense of this weak construal of irreversible loss of circulation is given. This means that paents in identical physiologic states are dead (in the DCD context) or alive (in the resuscitation context); the current state of death (at 2–5 minutes) is contingent on a future event (whether there will be resuscitation) suggesting backward causation; and the commonly used meaning of irreversible as 'not capable of being reversed' is abandoned. The literature supporting the claim that autoresuscitation does not occur in the context of no cardiopulmonary resuscitation is shown to be very limited. Several cases of autoresuscitation are summarized, suggesting that the claim that these cases are not applicable to the current debate may be premature. I suggest that brain dead and DCD donors are not dead; whether organs can be harvested before death from these patients whose prognosis is death should be debated urgently.
The Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative began in 2003 to address and alleviate the shortage of organs available for transplantation. This study investigated the patterns of organ donation by race to determine if the Collaborative had an impact on donation rates amongst ethnic minorities.
The following data from the Southern California regional organ procurement organization, were reviewed between 2004 and 2008: age, race (White, African American, Asian, Hispanic, and Other), the numbers of eligible referrals for organ donation and actual donors, types of donors, consent rates, conversion rates, organs procured per donor (OPPD), and organs transplanted per donor (OTPD). Logistic regression was utilized to determine independent predictors of ≥ 4 OTPD.
There were 1776 actual donors out of 2760 eligible deaths (conversion rate 64%). Hispanics demonstrated a significantly lower conversion rate than Whites (64% vs. 77%, p<0.001), but a considerably higher rates than African Americans (50%) and Asians (51%, p<0.05 for both). There were no significant changes in conversion rates over time in any race. Age was a negative predictor (OR 0.95), while trauma mechanism (OR 2.1), and standard criteria donor status (OR 2.5) were positive independent predictors of ≥ 4 OTPD. Race did not affect OTPD (all groups p>0.05).
The conversion rates amongst all ethnic minorities were significantly lower than the rates observed in Whites. However, when controlling for other factors, race was not a significant risk factor for the number of organs transplanted per donor. The Collaborative has not had an identifiable effect on race conversion rates during the 5 years since its implementation. Further intervention is necessary to improve the conversion rate in ethnic minorities in Southern California.
transplantation; organ donor; race; conversion rate