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Donation After Circulatory Death (DCD)

Surgical Lights

With the ever-growing demand for organs, in the 1990s a new donor pool was “discovered”. People who are not brain dead, but who are at the end of life, may choose to have their support withdrawn in a way that allows quick harvest of their organs when their hearts stop. They are taken to the operating room (or a room nearby), and life support is withdrawn. When the patient’s heartbeat and breathing are noted to have stopped, doctors wait a short time (between 75 seconds to 5 minutes - there is no universal standard) and then the organ harvest is begun.

Resuscitation is still possible

Gruesomely, some centers actually clamp off the arteries to the brain and then perform resuscitation of the rest of the body to keep the organs in good shape.

Many medical professionals are troubled by this method because they know patients are ROUTINELY resuscitated after 5 minutes of heart stoppage, and many make a full recovery thereafter. Dr. Ari Joffe, a pediatrician and intensive care specialist has published data showing that patients may spontaneously recover a heartbeat and recover even after ten minutes of heart stoppage. We maintain that since these patients are still well within the timeframe in which resuscitation is possible, the criterion of “irreversible cessation of circulatory function” mandated by the Universal Determination of Death Act has not been fulfilled, and they are not dead. A recent case report of a DCD (donation after circulatory death) patient who began to breathe and struggle during the harvesting of her kidneys bears this out. In this case, the coroner called the "second" death a homicide. 

 

In 2019, a British woman, Audrey Schoeman, developed severe hypothermia while hiking in the Pyrenees. Her heart stopped beating for six hours before she was able to be resuscitated, and she made a near-full recovery. Doctors say it is the longest cardiac arrest ever recorded in Spain. Thus, declaring people "dead enough" to begin organ harvesting after just 5 minutes of heart stoppage is obviously wrong.

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