Donation After "Brain Death" (DBD)
After the ad hoc committee of Harvard medical school redefined irreversible coma as death in 1968, and in 1981 their recommendations were passed into law by the states as the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA). The UDDA defines brain death as the irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem.
However, in actual medical practice, only the brainstem is tested, and only with a bedside physical exam. No specialized tests such as an EEG or cerebral blood flow test are required by this law.
We contend that the “brain dead” organ donor is biologically alive
The UDDA criteria have remained controversial. The Center for Bioethics at Harvard medical school held a conference in 2018 to re-evaluate the 50-year legacy of their redefinition of death. The consensus of the conference was that the UDDA is best used as a legal instrument to represent death in the US, not as a way to describe death as a biological occurrence.
We affirm that the “brain dead” organ donor is biologically alive, and the Harvard conference participants agree with us. Thus, it is morally reprehensible to use these biologically alive people as a source of spare parts. So called “brain death” is a legal fiction, and we need to protect these vulnerable people from being brutally murdered by the harvest of their organs, often without the benefit of adequate anesthesia.
In October of 2023, the American Academy of Neurology published a new brain death guideline for physicians. This guideline makes it easier to declare someone brain dead. It allows people who still have ongoing brain function, such as electrical activity on EEG or continuing function of a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, to be declared "dead" and their organs harvested. This guideline does not comply with the law under the UDDA (which requires the irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain) making physicians who use the new guideline vulnerable to lawsuits.