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Organ Donation after Circulatory Determination of Death: Lessons and Unresolved Controversies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2021


The several articles in this special issue on organ donation after circulatory determination of death or, as it is often put, donation after cardiac death (DCD), draw lessons from different kinds of experience in order to guide efforts in the U.S. to develop or refine policies for DCD. One lesson comes from a major and, by many measures, successful experimental DCD program in Washington, D.C. in the 1990s. Another lesson comes from European countries that have adopted presumed-consent legislation, a form of “opt out” that facilitates DCD as well as donation after neurological determination of death (DND). Another lesson, from the perspective of critical care medicine in Canada, attends to the implications of viewing a dying patient, undergoing resuscitative procedures, as a potential organ donor. A final lesson sketches implications of legislation and court cases in the U.S., often involving DND, for initiating temporary organ preservation (TOP) in DCD programs before consent has been obtained for organ donation. Some of these lessons are optimistic about the prospects for DCD, especially if certain steps are taken, while others are more cautious, particularly because of the costs and risks involved in DCD.

Copyright © American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics 2008

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