Archives For organ donation

The following essay was written by Julie Grimstad, president of the Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization.

The “dead donor rule” – a person must be dead before their vital organs are extracted for transplantation – is the basic principle guiding organ donation. A dead body is a corpse. Excising vital organs from a corpse does no harm. But, if we are not certain the individual is dead, removing vital organs is a grave matter.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2296) states: “… it is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.” Furthermore, even though Pope John Paul II stated that organ donation is an act of charity, in Evangelium Vitae (n. 15) he cautioned: “Nor can we remain silent in the face of other more furtive, but no less serious and real forms of euthanasia. These could occur for example when, in order to increase the availability of organs for transplants, organs are removed without respecting objective and adequate criteria which verify the death of the donor.”

We have been asked, “How and why does HALO differ from the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s position on ‘brain death’ and the use of ‘brain dead’ individuals as organ donors?” This paper is HALO’s answer.

HALO’s position is that a diagnosis of brain death does not mean that it is morally (or scientifically) certain the person is dead. Therefore, the practice of removing vital organs from “brain dead” individuals should be suspended and alternative means for extending the lives of individuals with failing organs should be pursued.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center’s Position

The NCBC’s most well-known authority on brain death, Father Tad Pacholczyk, makes four assertions:

  • 1. “The [brain dead] individual has undergone a traumatic event resulting in the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain functions.”
  • 2. “Brain dead individuals cannot be kept going on machines forever. In fact, there is usually a period of only a few days that it may be possible to extend the functioning of their organs by keeping them on a ventilator.” He suggests that “somebody is likely to have cut some corners in carrying out the testing and diagnosis” in cases where individuals have survived for months or years after a brain death diagnosis.
  • 3. “Genuinely brain-dead individuals never ‘wake up.”
  • 4. “Defining brain death as the irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem, is compatible with a Christian understanding of the true nature of man.” [1]

We do not disagree with Father Pacholczyk’s fourth assertion. However, after diligently searching for the answer to our question (this paper’s title), we have reached an uncomfortable conclusion: If physicians wait long enough to be certain that all functions of the entire brain have irreversibly ceased – that is, that the person is truly dead – the deceased person’s organs will have begun to deteriorate and therefore will not be transplantable. If the goal is to salvage healthy organs, haste is of the essence in determining brain death. Haste can lead to cutting corners and to errors. Also, as Pope John Paul II suggested, furtive euthanasia may occur as a means of increasing the supply of transplantable organs. (This is a reasonable concern since organ transplantation is a very lucrative business and “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil…” – 1 Timothy 6:10).

To address Father’s first assertion, it is necessary to ask a question. How is it possible to establish “the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain functions” when the person is exhibiting signs that some parts of the brain are functioning – signs which we can see with our own eyes?

Should We Believe Our Senses?

When our senses tell us someone is alive, but doctors tell us he is dead, what are we to believe? Two things which contradict each other cannot both be true. A human being is either alive or dead.

Before organ transplantation was possible, physicians made every effort to judge the moment of death in the direction of protecting life from a death-dealing mistake. Circulation and respiration had irreversibly ceased – the body was cold, blue and stiff. Our senses told us that the person was dead.

Brain death is declared while the patient has a beating heart because removal of vital organs must be done before they begin to deteriorate due to loss of circulation. We bury dead people, but we would never bury a person with a beating heart because we know that a beating heart is a sign of life. Also, consider these facts:

  • A person can be pronounced “brain dead” while he or she has a normal pulse, blood pressure, color and temperature. All signs of life.
  • “Brain dead” people digest food.
  • “Brain dead” children grow.
  • “Brain dead” pregnant women have gestated and delivered healthy babies and produced milk.
  • “Brain dead” patients’ wounds heal.
  • During the excision of organs, the donor is sometimes given paralyzing drugs to control muscle spasms; the heart rate increases, and blood pressure shoots up. Dead people don’t move or react to pain in these ways.

The legal definition of brain death is “the irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.” Yet “brain dead” patients display signs that their brains retain many essential functions. [2]

Pursuing the Truth Wherever It Leads

If a person who has been determined to be brain dead is truly dead, then our senses are deceiving us.

There are good people who support vital organ donation after a determination of brain death and good people who oppose it. It is not HALO’s purpose to judge anyone who has decided to donate organs or to undergo transplant surgery. We do, however, strongly suggest that people consider all the evidence before making these decisions and prior to taking a position on this crucial moral issue.

Renowned theologian Christian Brugger believes there is reasonable doubt that “brain dead” bodies are dead and concludes, “Since we should not treat as corpses what for all we know might be living human beings, it follows that we have an obligation to treat BD individuals as if they were living human beings.”[3] Dr. Paul Byrne and other experts in the fields of medicine, philosophy, and theology explain why they maintain that “‘Brain Death’ is Not Death” in an illuminating essay by that name. [4] HALO highly recommends reading this brief, yet thorough set of arguments against using neurological criteria alone to determine death.

John Haas, President of the NCBC, says that those who express doubt or deny that brain death is true death “create confusion in the minds of a number of the faithful” and “run the risk of unsettling the consciences of the faithful on a life-and-death ethical matter for which the authentic magisterium of the Church has provided clear guidance.”[5] However, we find Church guidance on this matter to be anything but clear and interpretations of Church guidance vary widely. Brugger, Byrne, Pacholczyk, and Haas are just a few of the many Catholic experts who express differing positions on “brain death.” (Perhaps this is a topic for another paper.)

The evidence HALO has thus far examined leads us to agree with the experts who say we cannot be morally certain that a person who has been declared “brain dead” is truly dead before their organs are removed. But we will never cease our search for the truth. At the very least, those who believe brain death is death should concede that this is one diagnosis where doctors need to be correct 100% of the time – and, for the sake of all who trust them, admit that there is a growing body of evidence that this diagnosis is not accurate in at least some cases, and perhaps in many cases.

Father Pacholczyk asserts, “Genuinely brain-dead individuals never ‘wake up.'” Every time a recovery occurs after a determination of brain death we are told the diagnosis was wrong; that perhaps corners were cut in testing, or mistakes were made, or the person doing the testing was not qualified, etc. Thus, how can anyone know for certain that a person is “genuinely brain-dead?” The only way is to wait and see.

People who have been determined to be “brain dead” using the most rigorous neurological criteria have awakened and recovered. It is safe to say that they would not have recovered had they been stripped of their vital organs before their injured brains could begin to heal. Here are two cases in point.

  • Trenton McKinley, a 13-year old Alabama boy, was declared brain dead after suffering skull fractures and a traumatic brain injury in March 2018. He reportedly passed all the tests for determining brain death. His mother signed papers to donate his organs. Fortunately, he regained consciousness before his vital organs were removed. Trenton was taken off the ventilator and eventually went home. He is now conscious, walking and talking. [6]
  • In 2007, Zach Dunlap, a 21-year old Oklahoman, flipped over on his 4-wheeler and suffered catastrophic brain injuries. Thirty-six hours after his accident, doctors at United Regional Healthcare System in Wichita Falls, Texas determined he was “brain dead.” They had subjected Zach to a battery of tests including a scan that showed a complete absence of blood flow to the brain. Preparations to harvest his organs were underway when a relative scraped the bottom of his foot with a pocket knife and he jerked his foot away. Just months later, Zack was walking and talking. He recalled hearing a doctor say he was dead and being “mad inside” but unable to move. [7]
  • On December 9, 2013, 13-year old Jahi McMath underwent surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids at a children’s hospital in Oakland, California. Shortly thereafter, she started to bleed and suffered cardiac arrest. She was declared “brain dead” three days later. Her family disagreed with the diagnosis and fought for Jahi’s life when the hospital sought to remove her life-support. Keeping her alive required moving her to New Jersey. 
  • Bobby Schindler, President of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network (https://www.lifeandhope.com/), explains: “After Jahi was ruled to be brain dead, she and her family found themselves in an incredible situation wherein Jahi was considered legally dead in California, but legally alive in New Jersey due to that state’s religious accommodations.” Jahi’s mother took excellent care of her at home. Jahi breathed with the aid of a ventilator. She responded appropriately to commands and underwent pubertal development. Her true death occurred on June 22, 2018. Her death certificate, completed by the NJ physician treating Jahi, listed her cause of death as bleeding as a result of liver failure.
  • Various news outlets subsequently reported that Jahi McMath had died, underscoring the fact that Jahi was a living human being for four and a half years after being issued a death certificate in California. [8] To learn more about Jahi’s condition read “The Case of Jahi McMath: A Neurologists’ View” by D. Alan Shewmon, The Hastings Center Report, December 25, 2018 (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hast.962).

Father Pacholczyk also maintains that “there is usually a period of only a few days that it may be possible to extend the functioning of [brain dead individuals’] organs by keeping them on a ventilator.” We point out that some people who have been diagnosed as brain dead have lived for years even though they have not made remarkable recoveries. For example,

Father Pacholczyk contends that such cases “indicate a failure to apply the tests and criteria for determination of brain death with proper attentiveness and rigor.” This explanation is not reassuring for people who have signed up to be organ donors, trusting that doctors don’t make erroneous declarations of death.

One final point. There are many different sets of diagnostic criteria that may be used to determine brain death. A person who would be declared brain dead in one hospital could be considered alive and receive potentially life-saving treatment in another hospital.

Even if you believe that brain death is true death, consider that you do not know where you might be hospitalized in the event you suffer a severe brain injury. What criteria will be used to determine brain death? Will the doctors who do the testing be qualified, careful, and honest? Will your organs be more important to them than your life?

“Should I Refuse to Be an Organ Donor?” Is a Prudent Question

Let us be clear. HALO does not reject vital organ donation by itself. We question the validity of brain death, particularly when “brain dead” individuals are slated to be organ donors or when a brain death determination is made not in order to be certain a patient is truly dead, but to justify stopping all life-sustaining treatment. Our position is compatible with the Church’s position. The Catholic Church is not opposed to organ transplantation but insists that persons must not be killed in order to procure their organs or for any other reason.

HALO cautions people: When in doubt, err on the side of life. We advise that you sign a wallet card refusing to be an organ donor [9] and carry it with you at all times, but the decision is up to you.

NOTES:

[1] Father Tad Pacholczyk, Director of Education, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, “Making Sense of Bioethics: Brain Dead Means Dead,” November 2005, www.ncbcenter.org.

[2] https://halorganization.com/pdf/HALO_Brain-Death-and-Organ-Donation.pdf

[3] E. Christian Brugger, “Are Brain Dead Individuals Dead? Grounds for Reasonable Doubt,”

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 41 (3):329-350 (2016).

[4] https://www.chninternational.com/brain_death_is_not_death_byrne_paul_md.html

[5] John M. Haas, “Catholic Teaching regarding the Legitimacy of Neurological Criteria for the Determination of Death,” The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Summer 2011.

[6] http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-miracle-boy-and-problems-with-the-brain-death-diagnosis

[7] Natalie Morales, “‘Dead’ Man Recovering after ATV Accident,” Datelinetranscript, NBC News, March 23, 2008.

[8] https://dolanlawfirm.com/2018/06/jahi-mcmath-has-died-in-new-jersey/

[9] https://newsletter.halorganization.com/2019/03/why-and-how-to-refuse-to-be-organ-donor.html

HALO also recommends reading “‘Brain death’ is a medical fiction invented to harvest organs from living people: expert” by Stephen Kokz, https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/brain-death-is-a-medical-fiction-invented-to-harvest-organs-from-living-people-expert

Contact: [email protected]

© Matt C. Abbott Column from Renew America. is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. He’s been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s ‘Unsolved’ podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

No Consensus on Brain Death

brain deathA forthcoming article in the journal Neurology provides insight into the complexities of achieving international consensus on brain death.

The article by a team of neurologists and medical researchers from clinics and universities around the US catalogues conceptions of brain death in medical institutions around the world.

The authors found that institutional protocols were absent or poorly understood in a significant number of low-income countries. They also found that “substantial differences in perceptions and practices of brain death exist worldwide” and that “whether a harmonized, uniform standard for brain death worldwide can be achieved remains questionable.”

The study – the first to examine opinions in a broad range of countries – involved an electronic survey which was distributed globally to physicians with expertise in neurocritical care, neurology, or related disciplines who would encounter patients at risk of brain death. Physicians from 91 countries responded.

The results were quite revealing

Doctors around the world leave different periods of time following initial neurologic deterioration before they declare brain death. The most common waiting period is between 6 and 10 hours, but reported results ranged from less than 5 hours to more than 25 hours.

“There were several discrepancies regarding the conduct of apnea testing”, the authors report. Views about the import of ancillary testing (EEGs, Dopler ultrasounds etc.) differed significantly between countries.

In their discussion of the results of the study, the authors flagged a need for greater collaboration between medical institutions from different countries:

“To promulgate a unified stance on brain death, valuable for practitioners everywhere, consensus among leading experts in the field is urgently required…[our] findings underscore the importance of international partnerships between institutions to improve medical education and alleviate critical human resource needs in lower-income settings.”

In a comment on the article, Dr. James Bernat observed that there is significant disagreement on brain death even within the US.

“[There is] a surprising degree of practice variation among hospitals in the United States. In contrast to the international circumstance, in which practice disparities arise more because of legal, cultural, or religious differences, those in the United States result more from the biases and ingrained practices of individual physicians.”

 

creative  commons logoThis article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge.org under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

 

My comment 

“Of course, there is no consensus, because “brain death” is NOT true death. I bet they would have no issue determining when someone is truly dead…irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions. That definition worked fine for us for thousands of years.”

That definition worked fine for us for thousands of years.

The Study

Objective: To assess the practices and perceptions of brain death determination worldwide and analyze the extent and nature of variations among countries.

Methods: An electronic survey was distributed globally to physicians with expertise in neurocritical care, neurology, or related disciplines who would encounter patients at risk of brain death.

Results: Most countries (n = 91, response rate 76%) reported a legal provision (n = 63, 70%) and an institutional protocol (n = 70, 77%) for brain death. Institutional protocols were less common in lower-income countries (2/9 of low [22%], 9/18 lower-middle [50%], 22/26 upper-middle [85%], and 37/38 high-income countries [97%], p < 0.001). Countries with an organized transplant network were more likely to have a brain death provision compared with countries without one (53/64 [83%] vs 6/25 [24%], p < 0.001).

Among institutions with a formalized brain death protocol, marked variability occurred in requisite examination findings (n = 37, 53% of respondents deviated from the American Academy of Neurology criteria), apnea testing, necessity and type of ancillary testing (most commonly required test: EEG [n = 37, 53%]), time to declaration, number and qualifications of physicians present, and criteria in children (distinct pediatric criteria: n = 38, 56%).

Conclusions: Substantial differences in perceptions and practices of brain death exist worldwide. The identification of discrepancies, improvement of gaps in medical education, and formalization of protocols in lower-income countries provide first pragmatic steps to reconciling these variations. Whether a harmonized, uniform standard for brain death worldwide can be achieved remains questionable.

  • Received September 29, 2014.
  • Accepted in final form January 7, 2015.

What if that was your family member and 53% of doctors deviated from the AANC criteria?

Opps

Let’s get rid of the legal fiction of brain death.

Last Thursday night on Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey’s character, Derek Shepherd,  was pronounced brain dead. Now Greys Anatomy for all 10 seasons has been pro-organ donation any chance they got. What was interesting is his wife, Meredith Grey had to make the decision to take him off life support. Her comments were interesting in light of the last 10 years.

Paraphrased:  “Ok so now is the time you tell me you waited the number of requisite hours and now you can tell me, he is dead. So you need a bed, and you want me to sign the papers. Now that he is dead, but not really dead. Now I have to decide whether to put him in a long care facility or pull the plug and KILL him.

Did you hear that?  Dead but not really dead, pull the plug and kill him? 

Start at 1:11 to watch the exchange.

Killing for Organs Push in The Atlantic.

Wesley SmithThis is an article by Wesley Smith, author of the book, Culture of Death,The Assault of Medical Ethics in America,  in response to the Atlantic article which is advocating killing the profoundly disabled or imminently dying for their organs.  

I’ve been saying this for the last three years here on this blog and everywhere I can that this is where we are headed.

Excerpts from Wesley’s post: 

I have repeatedly warned about articles published in medical and bioethics journals advocating killing the profoundly disabled or dying for their organs. The assault on the “dead donor rule” has now filtered down to the popular media.

The Atlantic has an article advocating that dying patients be killed for their organs rather than having to actually, you know, die first. From, “As They Lay Dying:”

Transplant-surgery programs in the United States are scrutinized by an alphabet soup of federal and nongovernmental entities. Centers with worse-than-expected transplant outcomes can be placed on probation or shut down.

Centers with worse-than-expected transplant outcomes can be placed on probation or shut down.

From the earliest days of transplantation, surgeons subscribed to an informal ethical norm known as the “dead-donor rule,” holding that organ procurement should NOT cause a donor’s death.

In practice, this meant waiting until patients were by all measures completely dead—no heartbeat, no blood pressure, no respiration—to remove any vital organs. (Sometimes 2 minutes, comment by me) 

 

A more useful ethical standard could involve the idea of “imminent death.” Once a person with a terminal disease reaches a point when only extraordinary measures will delay death; when use (or continued use) of these measures is incompatible with what he considers a reasonable quality of life; and when he therefore decides to stop aggressive care, knowing that this will, in relatively short order, mean the end of his life, we might say that death is “imminent.”

If medical guidelines could be revised to let people facing imminent death donate vital organs under general anesthesia, we could provide patients and families a middle ground—a way of avoiding futile medical care, while also honoring life by preventing the deaths of other critically ill people. Moreover, healthy people could incorporate this imminent-death standard into advance directives for their end-of-life care. They could determine the conditions under which they would want care withdrawn, and whether they were willing to have it withdrawn in an operating room, under anesthesia, with subsequent removal of their organs. There’s a name for that: Homicide. Doctors should never be killers, even for a “beneficial” purpose. 

If medical guidelines could be revised to let people facing imminent death donate vital organs under general anesthesia, we could provide patients and families a middle ground—a way of avoiding futile medical care, while also honoring life by preventing the deaths of other critically ill people.

Moreover, healthy people could incorporate this imminent-death standard into advance directives for their end-of-life care. They could determine the conditions under which they would want care withdrawn, and whether they were willing to have it withdrawn in an operating room, under anesthesia, with subsequent removal of their organs.

There’s a name for that: Homicide. Doctors should never be killers, even for a “beneficial” purpose. 

As my friend, Carolyn said on her Facebook page, and I agree. 

“Oh, this really makes me sick! Wake up everyone, the government is about to pass another law to enable the greedy the ability to dissect a living person for their organs. How many of you really want to die being dissected alive to satisfy the greed of a medical community and government gone mad? You think this could not happen to you, but it could.

The reason why so many fall in this cesspool of being a potential organ donor is because they are denied treatment.

Once this happens the doctor legally can demand the patient be denied anymore treatments. You can beg, I begged, You can cry, if you scream and act out, you will be arrested. Your loved is in harm’s way in a hospital in the World. You are at the mercy of a trained denial of medicine. Now they want to legally deny care to the almost, which is really what they have been doing all along.”

Read Caroly’s story about her daughter Melissa here.

I wrote on this and the dead-donor rule back in October, 2013 and the voices continue to get louder. 

The “Dead Donor Rule”

The “dead-donor rule” refers to two accepted ‘ethical norms’ that govern the practice of organ harvesting before transplantation:

1) vital organs should be taken only from dead patients,

2) living patients should not be killed for or by organ procurement.

There is a movement now by several well-known transplant surgeons to get rid of the “dead donor rule,” and call it what it is a legal fiction. Tell people the truth about what is happening…that you are not dead…yes, critically injured…but you are NOT dead.

Transplant surgeons believe that with such consent, there is no harm or wrong done in retrieving vital organs before death, provided that anesthesia is administered. But, many doctor’s and OPO’s (Organ Procurement Organizations) are not so sure and are fearful that more people will NOT consent if the truth is exposed. 

Beware of these words from doctors, “devastating neurological injury, no hope, and now “imminent death.”


Read more of Wesley’s post here. 

Head Transplants

Brain injured

Perhaps you saw this on the news. I think I caught a glimpse of it somewhere but when it came up on my Twitter feed from Journal of Medical Ethics, I went and did a little digging. 

Fortunately New Scientist Magazine had carried an article on it. Sergio Canavero, Surgeon at the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, first proposed the idea in 2013 and he now says it is completely possible by 2017. 

Canavero plans to announce the project at the annual conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) in Annapolis, Maryland, in June 2015. 

I don’t even know what to say to this latest “Scientific research???  

Furthermore, Dr. Canavero is calling his new surgical strategy the HEAVEN procedure, which preserves brain function through hypothermia during the transplantation procedure, which is performed at cervical level C5/6. 

Basically doing a head transplant requires cooling the recipient’s head and the donor body to extend the time their cells can survive without oxygen. The tissue around the neck is dissected and the major blood vessels are linked using tiny tubes, before the spinal cords of each person are cut. 

Details will be presented at the conference in June however you IF you ARE interested in this you can read some of the details here.

Ethics

Transplanting living human heads onto new bodies raises extraordinary ethical questions. But so did a non-beating heart donor a few years ago. Canavero intends to use brain-dead organ donors to test the fusing of the spinal cord with Polyethylene glycol. 

Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a polyether compound with many applications from industrial manufacturing to medicine.

Dr. Scripkoa neurologist and bioethicist with an interest in headache, traumatic brain injuries and concussions at Salinas Valley Hospital in California said that “many of the ethical implications related to the surgery depend on how you define human life. “I believe that what is specifically human is held within the higher cortex. If you modify that, then you are not the same human and you should question whether it is ethical. In this case, you’re not altering the cortex.” However, she adds that many cultures would not approve of the surgery because of their belief in a human soul that is not confined to the brain.”

So it all boils down to yes maybe it CAN be done, But SHOULD it be done? 

  • When does human life begin? 
  • Who should determine’s when someone is dead? 

You know my belief, life begins at conception and ends when true death occurs? It is not our choice but God’s. He is the author and finisher of life. The beginning and the end. True death occurs WHEN the soul leaves the body. 

Your eyes saw my unformed body; ALL the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16

Vital organs need to be fresh and undamaged for transplantation. Vital organs (from the Latin vita, meaning life) include the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and pancreas. In order to be suitable for transplant, they need to be removed from the donor before respiration and circulation cease.

We know that brain death is not true death. We know that without blood and oxygen the brain it starts to die within a few minutes. So I think we can conclude that in a head transplant the brain would need to alive with blood and oxygen flowing into both the donor and the recipient. As Dr. Canavero said doing a head transplant would require cooling the bodies of both donor and recipient to slow down cell death. 

My question is WHY is this cooling NOT being done in hospitals to prohibit the brain swelling after a traumatic brain injury? 

I posted on guidelines for treating trauma here and asked why hospitals aren’t doing it as a standard protocol? 

As I quoted from the Nova interview between Dr. Jamshid Ghajar: 

It’s a lot easier just to put the patient on the ventilator and then turn up the rate and then give them some drugs and come back next week and see how they’re doing. They’re lying there in a coma. They’re not screaming out for help. They’re not saying, “I’m in pain.” And so it would be quite easy to say, “Well, they have half a foot in the grave, why do anything else?” 

“That’s the real issue. I think if these patients were awake and saying, “Listen do something for me,” we’d be doing a lot more for them. But because they’re in a coma and they cannot speak for themselves, we’re treating them the way they are now.”

I find in unconscionable that we are on the verge of head transplants as a scientific reality and doctors can’t immediately use hypothermia to cool down the body and the brain of an injured person upon first entering the hospital. 

Dr. Jamshid Ghajar continued, “here are a lot of young people, children, especially, who are dying unnecessarily. These kids could live and have a very good quality of life, and they’re dying.

Flickr Photo Credit 

Organ Donor Found Not Quite Dead

SurgeryThe phrase “not completely brain dead”, like “not completely pregnant”, has a Monty Python-esque ring to it. But it is the way the Daily Mail described an alarming organ transplant incident in the German city of Bremen.

Doctors in a hospital in Bremen had already made an incision in the abdomen of a man who was presumed to be dead when they discovered that the deceased donor was still alive according to organ transplant protocols.

The operation was immediately terminated – and the brain-damaged patient died. The incident is being investigated by the German Medical Association.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung (the source for the Daily Mail) was told that “it is quite possible that the man’s brain was so damaged that he would not have been able to return to a normal life, but as long as he was not properly diagnosed as brain dead, nobody knows.”

The article above is published by and BioEdge.org under a Creative Commons licence.

Here are excerpts from the original article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung German Paper  If you go read it there, just translate it to English at the top of your browser.

My takeaway’s from the German article which unfortunately happen’s here in the US but goes unreported.

Critics warn some time: The brain death diagnosis is uncertain

The case proves once again what critics have long admitted: The diagnosis of brain death is not secure enough in Germany. Doctors are not sufficiently trained in how they determine the loss of brain function in a patient correctly. So it always comes back to errors.

Especially terrible was the idea that a patient whose brain still shows residual activity may suffer the pain of surgery and organ removal as opposed to a brain dead.

Did he know he was going to have his organs harvested but couldn’t show anything to stop the doctors? Did he feel pain when the doctors sliced into his abdomen? You do know by now from reading my blog that anesthesia is NOT used

Perhaps the man in Germany felt the way Christina Nichole Thornsberry, did when she was paralyzed in a hospital in Spokane,WA where she stated on her blog, 

“Don’t cut me open — don’t hurt me! Let me wake up!.” While doctors hovered over her bed… discussing organ donation, Christina Nichole could hear every word they said – and their conversation terrified her.