Life as an Extreme Sport

WoBioBlog: Controversial Infant Heart Transplant Redefines Death

Surgeons in Denver are happily announcing a major break-through in infant cardiac transplants: using hearts from infants that have died of cardiac-related deaths. According to the Wall Street Journal,

Until now, it was thought that hearts from those donors were too badly damaged to be transplanted successfully. Only hearts from donors who were brain-dead — and whose hearts were still functioning after they were declared dead — have been considered suitable for transplant.

To make the donors’ hearts more viable, doctors at Children’s Hospital in Denver altered the standards for declaring the patients dead… The Denver researchers narrowed to as little as 75 seconds the time between when the donor was pronounced dead and when the heart was harvested. Current guidelines call for waiting up to five minutes as a way of making certain that the heart does not start beating again on its own. But removing the heart earlier increases the odds of a successful transplant since it limits the damage caused by a lack of oxygen to the organ.

Most professional medical types I know, be they bioethicists, doctors, nurses, etc, agree that there are significant and severe problems with how transplants are handled in this country, and that we need to do something to increase the number of available organs…(continue reading)