(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Significant changes to organ sharing protocol could be on the way.
Under new rules that are being considered, surgeons retrieving organs for transplants after the donor’s heart stops beating would no longer have to wait at least two minutes to make sure the heart doesn’t spontaneously start beating again.
The rules were proposed by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a Richmond nonprofit organization that coordinates organ donation under contract with the federal government.
The same organization is also trying to eliminate a ban that many consider to be a much needed protective measure for patients in controversial cases who would be potential donors. This refers to the present ban on even considering anyone as an organ donor before doctors and family members have independently decided to stop trying to save them.
The proposed changes are part of the first major overhaul of the 2007 guidelines for a specific type of “donation after cardiac death” (DCD).
While proponents for the change argue that they would strengthen the transplant system, critics say that the change would increase the risk that donors would be treated like “tissue banks” rather than sick people fighting for their right to live or die peacefully.
What DCD involves is surgeons having the ability to take organs within minutes of forms of life support having been cut off from hospitalized patients who still may have some brain activity. The protocol had been the norm for organ donors before the neurological criteria “brain death” became the standard in the 1970s.
Doctors have started to increasingly revisit DCD as the number of people needing transplants rose and it has become a growing source of organs as a result.
Around 6,000 Americans die each year while waiting for donated organs.
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