Even if people register as organ donors upon death, chances
are they will never be an actual donor because they died from an illness
or an accident that left their organs too damaged for anyone else to
use. Typically an organ donor is brain dead and on a ventilator, which
is only about 1% of all deaths. Organ donors need to be on life support
so the blood and oxygen is still getting to their organs. These are
usually people who die of head injuries resulting from such events as
car accidents, gunshot wounds, swimming pool accidents or child abuse,
and they're on life support.
A policy known
as the dead donor rule is the main ethical and legal standard for organ
transplants, except in the case of living donations. This rule states
that a person must be declared dead before a doctor may harvest their
organs for transplantation. However, the debate lies in when a person is
considered dead. There are two general definitions of death. These
include the absence of breathing and pulse and the stopping of brain
function. The dead donor rule has increased the number of organs
available for transplant, but has a number of limitations, including the
need to wait until the heart stops.
severe shortage of viable organs for transplantation in the U.S. has led
some transplant surgeon professionals to propose harvesting kidneys
from people who are not considered "dead" yet. Under current protocols
patients undergoing an orchestrated withdrawal of life support are
pronounced dead after 2 to 5 minutes. Because of the waiting time
approximately one-third of potential donors end up not being able to
donate, and many organs, especially kidneys, become nonviable as a
Instead some argue to conduct kidney
removal from patients with severe irreversible brain injury, whose
families consent, before their cardiac and respiratory systems stop
functioning. Removing both kidneys will not make the donor worse off
than s/he would have been before their surgery. Afterward the donor
would be kept comfortable until death.
Still some contend that removing one kidney could be legally defensible, but removing both would almost certainly be deemed unlawful under the current legal framework. However, it is suggested that no harm or wrong doing is committed by procuring vital organs, such as both kidneys, prior to stopping life support, provided that valid consent is obtained for donation. Also, with new provisions, families will be allowed to grieve in peace, since surgeons would not need to rush the body of their love one into the operating room to remove organs before they are no longer usable. Many find that a revised protocol of the dead donor rule would ultimately respect the desires of those who wish to donate organs, and has the potential to maximize the number and quality of organs available to those in need.
"Experts Debate Best Way to Encourage More Organ Donors." USA Today.
CAROLLO, KIM. "Surgeon: Remove Kidneys for Transplant Before Donor's Death." ABC News. ABC News Network"Medical Tourism." Legal And Ethical Issues Of Organ Transplants