(Nancy Valco, RN ALNC) – Whether we are renewing our driver’s licenses, reading the news or watching TV, it’s almost impossible to miss the campaign to persuade us to sign an organ donation card.
But do we really know what we are signing?
While internet organ donor registration sites like Donate Life America and organdonor.gov still maintain that vital organs can only be harvested (the technical term for removal) after brain death (a controversial issue itself ), a whole new category of organ donors initially called NHBD (non-heart beating organ donors) and later changed to DCD (donation after cardiac death) was added in the 1990s. This new pool of organ donors are patients who are severely brain-injured but not brain dead, on ventilators (breathing machines) and considered hopeless in terms of survival or predicted “quality of life”.
Organs from these patients are taken when families agree to stop the ventilator and allow doctors to take the person to an operating room where the patient’s organs are removed when (or if) the patient’s heartbeat and breathing stops for 2-5 minutes within a 1-2 hour time frame. If the patient does not die within the time frame, the transplant is cancelled because the organs are potentially damaged and the patient is then returned to a room to die without further treatment. CONTINUE