Organ transplant: Not for the Faint of Heart.

haydayhaydayMarch 21, 2012

On NPR I caught a bit of an interview with a couple of people about organ transplants and just exactly what it means to be DEAD.

On my driver's license, I've indicated that I'm an organ donor, and I don't expect I'll change that, but, I tell you, I don't feel quite as comfortable with the thought as I did before.

And, given the current Hot Topic about abortion, I think it ties in pretty well. Fact is, these people, whose organs are being "harvested" are, in fact, in "some" sense, much more alive than the fetus that many of us have few qualms about aborting.

I warn you, if you're like me, reading these links might be a little uncomfortable for you.

I won't even post any parts of the story here so you can decide to turn away now if you're squeamish about this sort of thing.

I'm dead? Says who? The NPR story.

And that links toan article written by one of the interviewed in the Wall Street Journal.

Not for the faint of heart.


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Thanks for the information, Hay. I sure hope Freeman is right about the pain (and hopefuly lack thereof)...

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 12:06PM
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No big surprises in that link --

So after a donor is brain-dead, his body is put back on a ventilator to keep oxygen flowing through the bloodstream. To anyone who ever watches medical dramas on TV, this shouldn't come as a surprise. So while the heart may be kept beating, and the lungs kept functioning, it's the machines stimulating the activity, not the patient's brain.

Calling donors in such situations the 'undead' or 'partly dead' is just sensationalizing and confusing an issue that does not need to be that murky. The 'line' doesn't seem all that blurry to me in cases of brain-death.

When the decision is made by a family to withdraw life-support for a patient with minimal brain function, I still don't see the 'murky'. The patient is alive until life support is withdrawn; then they die; then they're dead. Again, no 'blur.'

I'm an organ donor, of course, and am in no danger of changing my mind due to that little piece of non-drama.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 3:39PM
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I guess I've seen too many movies, LOL.

You know, the stories where the rich people who need a kidney for their kid hunt down just the right donor, and gothcha!


    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 4:15PM
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And what about the pregnant woman that is kept "alive" for months until the fetus is old enough to survive? Then the "mother" is disconnected and allowed to finish dying.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 4:50PM
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Your question Agnes?

If it's "Is she dead while she 'is being kept alive' (your words, not mine)" -- I would answer that yes, she is technically dead, and it is not the "mother" keeping the fetus alive, but rather the machines controlling the late mother's body. A 'technical' distinction, certainly, but in these cases, an important one.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 4:59PM
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I didn't know that all donors are "living" donors. Yikes! They really should fully anesthetize all donors, living or mostly dead before removing the organs.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 6:15PM
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I agree. That's creepy.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:08PM
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Well, I'm one of those "selfish ***s" that refuses to check donor on my driver's license.

Only selfish in that my family knows that my wishes are that my organs are to be donated, but only if they do not believe there is a chance for recovery.

I have a friend that is a nurse that told me how excited the donor team gets when a trauma victim is brought in with "donor" checked on their driver's license.

Seems to me the excitement about organs might overshadow excitement to make the extra effort to save someone.

I've done a little research about when someone actually dies, and science is teaching us more and more, especially with people who have long thought to be lost to the world awakening and relating that they were able to hear and be aware of their surroundings for years, just not able to convey that to anyone due to brain injuries.

Indeed, when is "dead" dead? I had to ask myself that, knowing that cardiac arrest victims can be brought back literally an hour later if they are immersed in very cold water. When do you stop CPR? Where are they? Where is consciousness?

It's plain creepy that people are alive and who knows what kind of brain activity is going on, no anesthesia, and their organs harvested.

I think the families should be advised of the process and better informed instead of the perfunctory "you're doing such a good thing."

Organ donation is a wonderful gift, but we should be educated as to what actually happens to the donor and exactly what the process entails.

Interesting topic and information!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:23PM
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Demi, same here; the family knows, and no one else needs to. Except now all you guys know...

Seriously, organ donation is a wonderful thing. It's good to know so many people have checked the box, just in case~~

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 11:56PM
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Gee I thought this came up before when someone challenged me about a beating heart transplant program that EDD is part of.
Living cadavers have been around for quite awhile & they are meticulously maintained including receiving antibiotics & other medications.
It's rather ghoulish but warm weather like we have been having is usually an optimum time for transplant recipients as their are a lot of motorcycle accidents & head injuries.
The person ceases to exist on the signing of that death certificate the heart would be kept beating with it's own blood supply & monitored for rhythm & any anomalies would show up. Previously the heart was kept on ice & had a time frame where it could be used. With beating heart the heat can be examined for any potentials flaws before it's placed in the recipient.

A transplant surgeon said he thinks of who is not who was (chilly but forward looking)

A mother whose child was declared brain dead sued a DC hospital to keep him on life support. the boy died of brain cancer but the family insisted that due to their religious views death only occurs when the heart stops.
""This child has ceased to exist by every medical definition," Sophia Smith, one of Mr. Brody's physicians, wrote in court papers. "There is no activity in any portion of his brain, including the brain stem."
Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky of Congregation Yeshiva of in Crown Heights, New York agreed with the Brody family's wishes. "There are some that feel brain-dead is sufficient [to declare a person's death]," said. "But the authoritative [Orthodox Jewish] opinion is we follow the heartbeat to declare the difference between life and death."

His eyes are fixed and dilated. His body neither moves nor responds to stimulation. His brain stem shows no electrical function, and his brain tissue has begun to decompose.

"This is death at its simplest," the hospital's lawyers wrote in a court filing.

The hospital said it would help the family move what it called the boy's "earthly remains" to another medical facility, but has found none willing to accept a brain-dead child.

The dispute wound up in court Sunday, when the family asked a federal judge to block the hospital from doing any further tests for brain activity.

The hospital responded by asking a District of Columbia Superior Court judge for permission to discontinue treatment.
During the battle the child did pass away according to his sects satisfaction.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 1:56AM
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I wonder if anyone who could have made it back from the life support machine missed out on his/her chance while the hospital was forced to keep this boy on its machine?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 2:49AM
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I think giving a mostly dead donor an "accidental" overdose of something after the organ collection is complete would be a nice gesture.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 10:04AM
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Just another person hood question. Legally the person stopped at the signing & registering the death.
Even when you are listed as an organ donor a lot of times the organs are wasted.
I'm glad I wen't to my first wake at 5 or 6. I asked why was Mrs Hannity wearing a nuns habit I was told she was a member of something called the Third Order, Why is she just lying there like that? Shes already gone that's just a reminder for us to visit for a day or 2 to say goodbye before she returns to clay (that part made no sense because I could only think of modeling clay)
I stopped early on associating a body & a person whne my mother had advanced Alzheimer's I already took leave of her this was merely a shell (cold but it's how she raised us to see it). When her aunt & she said goodbye to them while they were still half there today I understand & accept that.
I also have to remember that most Hospitals are businesses the average LVAD procedure produces a $50,000 profit.

According to Transplant Living, the average total cost of a single heart transplant in 2007 was $658,800. This figure includes the cost of obtaining a donor heart, at an average of nearly $90,000, about $23,000 in evaluation fees, $40,000 for doctor's fees, $383,000 in hospital costs, $93,000 in post-operative care, and over $29,000 for immunosuppressive prescription medications.

Wouldn't begrudge them a cent!

Here is a link that might be useful: Buck Buck

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 11:48AM
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"Mostly dead".

Y'alll keep making me think of the movie The Princess Bride.


Miracle Max: He probably owes you money huh? I'll ask him.

Inigo Montoya: He's dead. He can't talk.

Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do.

Inigo Montoya: What's that?

Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change (or in this case, loose organs!).

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 12:34PM
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LOVE that film!

"Prepare to die!"

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 12:47PM
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