Harvesting Babies' Organs Scrutinized

Critics say hearts removed too soon to be sure donor was dead
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2008 10:09 AM CDT
21-month-old heart recipient Zachary Apmann plays with his family at The Children's Hospital in Aurora, Colo., Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008.    (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
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(Newser) – A report on heart transplants involving babies has raised some thorny questions of medical ethics, the Washington Post reports. Hearts were taken from newborns suffering severe brain damage less than two minutes after the babies were disconnected from life support. The hearts saved the lives of terminally ill babies, but critics question whether the donors were truly dead.

Transplant advocates have been promoting "donations after cardiac death" in recent years, but the removal of hearts from patients who are not brain dead has troubled some ethicists. Some say the definition of death may need to be changed to make the procedure legal. "This clearly shows the feasibility of doing this," a medical professor said of the first-of-their-kind operations on babies. "The question is: Should this be done?"