Organ donation after cardiac death from withdrawal of life support in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

J Palliat Med. 2012 Jan;15(1):16-9. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2011.0239. Epub 2011 Dec 7.


Objective: Donation after cardiac death (DCD) or donation of organs after removal of life support is an accepted means of organ retrieval that usually occurs in the setting of sudden illness but has not been described in people with progressive neurologic illness. We report DCD in two people with progressive amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Methods: Case series at an academic medical center of two men with progressive ALS who underwent withdrawal of artificial life support, rapid cardiac death, and subsequent organ donation. The primary outcome was donation of organs in concordance with patient and family wishes.

Results: Both patients underwent peaceful withdrawal of life support in the presence of family, and multiple organs were donated.

Conclusions: Patients may legally and ethically refuse life-sustaining care. These patients considered their lives to be more burdensome than beneficial near the end of their lives, both carefully planned the time and circumstance of their deaths, and both fulfilled a long-standing desire to donate their organs. This study describes a potential opportunity for patients with progressive neurologic illness.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis*
  • Death*
  • Euthanasia, Passive*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*