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What you lose when you sign that organ donor card

Eighteen months ago, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal, titled What You Lose When You Sign That Donor Card. it was written by Dick Teresi. Since the article was posted, Dick has published a book called The Undead…how medicine is blurring the lines between life and death.

The Undead by Dick Teresi I had read his book about a month before the WSJ came out and loved his writing style, sense of humor and his ability to take medical concepts that I was just starting to understand and turn them into an easy to understand book on the transplant industry.

To say a firestorm exploded would be putting it mildly. My grief therapist even called me to tell me she read the article in the Sunday paper,”Gosh now I understand what you have been saying.” I told her I had read it on Saturday in the online edition and even commented. That comment is now buried in the 572 comments.

Today, my son sent me the article and I decided to read it again and the 572 comments. It was almost comical what started out with reasonable comments and then they slowly turned after an All Points Bulletin was sent out, and all the transplants surgeons, critical care nurses and those who have received organ’s chimed in.

The one thing I kept reading over and over again was, “I hope if you ever need an organ, or you’re loved one does, you don’t get it.” Now that is a wise comeback to make someone feel guilty or fearful for opposing organ donation.

Most of the commenters missed the point completely that you are not dead when they harvest your organs in the sense most people think of death. And that if you are not dead, you feel pain.

Brain death is a legal, medical term that was coined after an Ad Hoc Committee at Harvard determined a new definition of death.

“An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead. A determination of death must be made in accordance with accepted medical standards.”

The definition was formalized by the Uniform Definition of Death Act and is now the standard used in every hospital. In order to harvest the organ’s from a severely injured person that person must be pronounced dead.

 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 on what is happening…that you are not dead…yes, critically injured…and get consent to harvest your organs knowing you are not dead.

They 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. The Gift of Life is so benevolent sounding. (((sarcasm)))

Characterizing the ethical requirements of organ donation in terms of valid informed consent under the limited conditions of devastating neurologic injury is ethically sound, optimally respects 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. Dr. Robert Truog and Dr. Franklin Miller in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Notice the comment is devastation neurologic injury, not brain death.

Buy Dick Teresi’s book, read it yourself, understand it. Whether you are on board for organ donation or against it be informed. I had to sign more forms when I got my daughters ear’s pierced at the mall and was handed a pamphlet to read than you handed when you are 16 years old at the DMV, or Secretary of State.

Don’t be intimidated to stand up for life…from conception to true death.

Success Stories of those who have awakened before organs were taken. Regardless of what the doctors will tell you people have survived.

Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA)

George Bush was the current President of the United States when he commissioned the  study of defining a uniform law on death.

At the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research they recommended and concluded that, in light of the ever-increasing powers of biomedical science and practice, a statue is needed to provide a clear and socially accepted basis for making determinations of death.

The commission, composed of ten men recommend the adoption of such a statute by the Congress for areas coming under federal jurisdiction and by all states as a means of achieving uniform law on defining death throughout the Nation.

The Uniform Determination of Death Act says, An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead. A determination of death must be made in accordance with accepted medical standards.

Surgery No person authorized by law to determine death, who makes such a determination in accordance with the Act, should, or will be, liable for damages in any civil action or subject to prosecution in any criminal proceeding for his acts or the acts of others based on that determination. 

Note: “This act is silent on acceptable diagnostic tests and medical procedures.… The medical profession remains free to formulate acceptable medical practices and to use new biomedical knowledge, diagnostic tests and equipment.”

Different Medical Standards

Each state has passed the UDDA and it is left to each doctor or hospital to determine the “acceptable medical standards”. One hospital could require one test, another hospital two doctors, some hospitals a nurse (Michigan). Some require an Apnea test, others two Apnea tests.

Depending on where you end up in a Trauma Center or hospital your “legal death” could be determined by different standards.

Life Processes in those pronounced “Brain Dead”

Regardless of the UDDA which defined death in the United States Dr. Alan D Shewmon has compiled a list of life processes that brain-dead patients continues to exhibit: 

  • Cellular wastes continue to be eliminated, detoxified, and recycled.
  • Body temperature is maintained, though at a lower than normal temperature and with the help of blankets.
  • Wounds heal.
  • Infections are fought by the body.
  • Infections produce fever.
  • Organs and tissues continue to function.
  • Brain-dead pregnant women can gestate a fetus.
  • Brain-dead children mature sexually and grow proportionately.

The other valid argument for Dr. Shewmon’s 150 cases is that in science, all you need is one case to falsify a theory.  Teresi, Dick (2012-03-13). The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers–How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death

If brain death is true death, then even one case (Dr. Shewmon has 150) destroys that theory.

Flickr Photo credit 

Brain Death, Dead or Alive?

February 16, 2013 — 15 Comments

If you are declared brain dead, are you dead or alive?

According to the law you are dead.

According to your body,which is warm,pink,producing urine and the heart beating you are alive.

Harvard Report on Brain death In 1968 a group of 13 men met at Harvard University in Boston. The purpose of the meeting was to redefine irreversible coma as a new criterion of death. Now a person who was in a coma could be pronounced dead. Up until this time in the United States the definition of death was simple. You were dead when your heart stopped beating and you stopped breathing. This Harvard ad hoc committee met for the purpose of redefining death so that a person in a what was determined to be an irreversible coma could be declared dead. The definition of death had to be changed In order to take vital organs from severely injured patients or those in a coma.

On August 5th, 1968 the Harvard Committee published their report, “A Definition of Irreversible Coma,” in the Journal of American Medicine. It is commonly known today at the Harvard Criteria and is the most sited story on brain death. There were NO clinical trials or animal trials done, only a new definition of death. “Brain death was concocted, it was made up in order to get organs. It was never based on science” says Dr. Paul Byrne,Board Certified Neonatologist and Pediatrician and Past President of the Catholic Medical Association.

Uniform Definition of Death Act

On October 19,1980 the American Medical Association and on February 10,1981 the American Bar Association passed the first Uniform Definition of Death Act.

The Uniform Determination of Death Act is currently accepted and practiced in all 50 states reads:

  1. An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead. A determination of death must be made in accordance with accepted medical standards.

I mean would you really check the box at the Secretary of State if you were “almost dead”?

Are you dead in the way you typically think about death?

In The City of God, Book XIII, Chap. 11, St Augustine addresses the question, “Can one be both living and dead at the same time?” He replies in the negative, that there is no third state — one is either alive or dead. A man may be dying but he is still alive until he is dead and his soul is separated from his body.

Life and death CANNOT and DO NOT exist at the same time in the same person.

Think about that.

To be continued…On the changes of the Revised UDDA of 2006.