Organ Donation

The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act was revised in 2006 to classify everyone who has not explicitly refused to be an organ donor as a “prospective donor.” If you are “at or near death,” your hospital must notify an Organ Procurement Organization (OPO). While the OPO searches for someone legally authorized to consent or refuse to donate your organs, the medical team can treat you like a donor, subjecting you to medical procedures—not beneicial to you—solely to ensure your organs are in tip-top condition for transplantation.

Brain Death

Brain death the irreversible cessation of all brain activity for an appropriate observation period, at least 24 hours, so that cardiopulmonary functions must be artificially maintained. A presidential commission in the USA accepted criteria for such a diagnosis, including cessation of all brain functions, including cerebral functions and brainstem (reflex) functions; irreversibility of the cessation; establishment of the cause of coma, sufficient to explain the loss of brain function; exclusion of possibility of recovery of brain function; and persistence of the cessation for an appropriate period of observation or trial of therapy. Complicating conditions must also be excluded.

The use of neurological criteria to declare “brain death” was motivated by the desire to harvest the beating heart and other vital organs for transplantation, and to remove life support from patients to keep from overcrowding intensive care units of hospitals.1

Surveys show a wide variation in “brain death” criteria among leading neurological institutions in the United States. This means a person could be considered “brain dead” in one institution and not in another.2

Patients, such as Madeleine Gauron, have been pronounced “brain dead” with no hope of recovery, but later recovered consciousness and are still living among us.3

The apnea test is the most important step in determining “brain death.” An apnea test is the removal of the patient’s ventilator to determine if the patient is capable of taking in a breath on their own. In these situations, the ventilator can be turned off for up to 10 minutes. This test signiicantly impairs the possibility of recovery and can lead to the death of the patient through a heart attack.4

Sudden Cardiac Death

Definition

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an unexpected death due to heart problems, which occurs within one hour from the start of any cardiac-related symptoms. SCD is sometimes called cardiac arrest.

Description

When the heart suddenly stops beating effectively and breathing ceases, a person is said to have experienced sudden cardiac death. SCD is not the same as actual death.

In actual death, the brain also dies. The important difference is that sudden cardiac death is potentially reversible. If it is reversed quickly enough, the brain will not die.

Sudden cardiac death is also not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is the result of a blockage in an artery which feeds the heart, so the heart becomes starved for oxygen. The part that has been starved is damaged beyond repair, but the heart can still beat effectively.

Refuse to be an organ donor wallet card

Human Life Alliance (HLA) recommends signing and carrying a “Refusal to be an Organ Donor” wallet card. To request cards, call HLA at 651-484-1040.