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Medicine Science

When Are You Dead? 516

Posted by Soulskill
from the as-soon-as-the-organleggers-spot-you dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Dick Teresi writes in the WSJ that becoming an organ donor seems like a noble act, but what doctors won't tell you is that checking yourself off as an organ donor when you renew your driver's license means you are giving up your right to informed consent, and that you may suffer for it, especially if you happen to become a victim of head trauma. Even though they comprise only 1% of deaths, victims of head trauma are the most likely organ donors. Patients who can be ruled brain dead usually have good organs, while organs from people who die from heart failure, circulation, or breathing deteriorate quickly. But here's the weird part. In at least two studies before the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act, some 'brain-dead' patients were found to be emitting brain waves, and at least one doctor has reported a case in which a patient with severe head trauma began breathing spontaneously after being declared brain dead. Organ transplantation — from procurement of organs to transplant to the first year of postoperative care — is a $20 billion per year business, with average recipients charged $750,000 for a transplant. At an average of 3.3 donated organs per donor, that is more than $2 million per body. 'In order to be dead enough to bury but alive enough to be a donor, you must be irreversibly brain dead. If it's reversible, you're no longer dead; you're a patient,' writes David Crippen, M.D. 'And once you start messing around with this definition, you're on a slippery slope, and the question then becomes: How dead do you want patients to be before you start taking their organs?'"
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When Are You Dead?

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