By Janet Fang
Posting in Technology
Some other ideas in the British Medical Association report on organ donation includes: restarting hearts in people who've died of heart failure and covering funeral expenses for donors.
This week, the British Medical Association released a report looking at new sources of organ donation – posing many tricky questions in order to redress the country’s shortage.
While donation rates in the UK have improved by 25% in the last few years, 500-1000 people still die a year waiting for a transplant.
Some highlights of the report [pdf] on organ donation policy:
1. Restarting hearts from people who have just died of heart failure.
Keeping the heart beating helps preserve it longer. Surgeons could remove the heart of someone who has just suffered circulatory death, maintain its function by putting blood and oxygen into it, and give it to a patient who needs a new heart, the Guardian reports. This procedure is used successfully in the US.
2. Keeping brain dead patients alive on ventilators.
While such patients are often put on artificial ventilation for a short while to enable their relatives to say goodbye, elective ventilation is different, the Telegraph explains. It involves starting ventilation, once it is recognized that the patient is close to death, with the specific intention of facilitating organ donation.
3. Creating a test to guarantee that potential donor babies are brain dead.
Brain stem death is when there are no longer any reflexes through the stalk connecting the brain to the spinal cord. It’s legally considered a sign of death in the UK, allowing doctors to identify potential donors before their organs begin to deteriorate. There’s currently no test in the UK for diagnosing brain stem death in babies less than 2 months old. New Scientist reports.
4. Offering incentives for donating.
The report says other options could include ‘mandated choice,’ where all adults are forced to decide whether they want to become an organ donor; ‘reciprocity,’ where those who donate organs (or sign up to donate after their death) receive priority should they themselves require a transplant; or some form of incentive or compensation for donors (for example, paying for organs or covering funeral expenses). BBC reports.
5. Opting out.
It concluded that the best option to increase organ donation rates in the UK would be to make donation the default, a presumption from which people must opt out. There’s also the removing of barriers that lead families to refuse organ donation because they don't know what their relatives' wishes were.
Image by Beth.R via Flickr
Feb 16, 2012
Warehousing dead people is not needed. The technology already exists to keep donated organs alive long enough to get them to a needy person. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1520326/Transplant-heart-is-kept-alive-outside-body-before-being-given-to-Briton.html
It is a tough call for families to allow organ donation to be done; those who do choose to donate the organs can feel that something good can continue when their loved one's organs can live on in someone who needs those parts. The opt out call is problematic in that organ donation is probably not something that the families would be aware and they may feel violated if they find out afterwards that the organs were taken without consulting the family. For those who are on a waiting list, this would help the odds of getting a life saving organ. For myself, the idea of some part of me being used to save a life or making a life better is a good thing.
Well, my initial reaction is that the idea of farming bodies for transplant is ill-advised and opens the door to medical abuse & corruption of the worst kind. Number 2 in particular conjures images of Michael Cricton's book/movie 'Coma'. There is certainly no organ transplant crisis in Britian, or anywhere else, for that matter. While society and the medical profession have a duty to provide the best care they can, it must not be in the business of deciding which lives are more worth saving, which the above reccomendations come dangerously close to doing. Oh, and 'mandated choice', that's the ultimate in Orwell-speak. Bet every bureaucratic control freak can't wait to adopt that phrase for their pet cause.
The recommendations are to increase the possible transplantable organs for those who are waiting. The article said 500-1000 die every year while waiting for an organ. The article did not say how long people would be connected to equipment to keep their bodies alive, I would think that there is a short time that such methods would be useful and having a short time will allow the families more time to prepare without adding more grief than neccessary.