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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, March 19, 2007

New trend in organ donation raises questions

A new approach to organ donation is saving the lives of more waiting patients but, some say, it risks sacrificing the interests of the donors, according to a story in Sunday's Washington Post.

In "donation after cardiac death," surgeons remove organs within minutes after the heart stops beating and doctors declare a patient dead, the story says. Most organs are removed only after doctors have declared a patient brain dead.

Two Boston doctors and a woman whose son became a donor at Massachusetts General Hospital voice their opinions.

"People are dying on the waiting list," said Francis L. Delmonico, a transplant surgeon at Harvard Medical School, speaking on behalf of the United Network for Organ Sharing. More than 95,000 Americans are waiting for organs. "This is vital as an untapped source of organ donors."

Nancy Erhard's 25-year-old son, Bo, became a DCD donor at Mass. General in November 2005 after a burst artery caused devastating brain damage, the story said.

"There was no hope. He would never regain conscious thought," Erhard said. "This gave his life so much more meaning in the end because he was able to help so many others."

Michael A. Grodin, director of Boston University's Bioethics and Human Rights Program, said the practice is troubling.

"The image this creates is people hovering over the body trying to get organs any way they can," he said. "There's a kind of macabre flavor to it."

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 07:55 AM
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