Understanding Brain Death

Organ Harvesting Before "Brain-Death" Increasingly Common, Concerned Doctors Warn

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 21, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Organ harvesting from patients before brain-death has been declared as a rapidly increasing trend in U. S. hospitals, the Washington Post reported March 18, alarming doctors and ethicists about the dubious ethics behind the practice.

Instead of waiting until brain function ceases and the patient is declared "brain-dead" by medical officials (itself a questionable practice since there is no universally-accepted definition of brain-death) surgeons have begun following an approach known as "donation after cardiac death." Organs are harvested once the heart has stopped beating and several minutes have passed without the heart spontaneously re-starting.

"The person is not dead yet," said Jerry A. Menikoff, an associate professor
of law, ethics and medicine at the University of Kansas. "They are going to
be dead, but we should be honest and say that we're starting to remove the
organs a few minutes before they meet the legal definition of death."

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