The importance of being dead: non-heart-beating organ donation

Issues Law Med. Summer 2002;18(1):3-20.

Abstract

There is no definitive answer to the question of how long one must wait, after a person's heart stops beating, before concluding that the person meets the heart-lung criteria for death. This question has assumed new importance with attempts to remove transplantable organs from people declared dead using those criteria. An examination of the legal definition of death suggests that organs are indeed being procured from some of these people prior to their being legally dead. Moreover, the fact that the donors have consented to these procedures does not eliminate reason for concern regarding this state of affairs, since patient autonomy must at times be overridden in pursuance of important social goals.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Death
  • Blood Circulation
  • Brain Death / classification
  • Brain Death / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Death*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Heart Arrest* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Medical*
  • Time
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / standards
  • United States