ERs Grab Organs Faster From Accident Victims

Controversial program looks to increase transplants
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2010 5:38 PM CDT
In this Dec. 4, 2009 photo, medical assistant Dalila Rodas checks the temperature of patient Sergio Santana at La Clinica North Vallejo in Vallejo, Calif., One year after its inauguration, La Clinica...   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(Newser) – A federal project exploring the securing of donor organs from patients who die in emergency rooms is raising questions of medical ethics. Traditionally, organs are not taken from ER patients and are removed only after all brain activity has ceased. The project, under way at two Pittsburgh hospitals, aims to facilitate removing organs after the heart has stopped but before brain death is declared.

"This is about helping people who have declared themselves to be donors, but die in a place where donation is currently not possible," said the project leader. Critics fear doctors will start regarding patients as potential donors before they even expire—one bioethicist described the approach as "ghoulish." But "right now, every single person who dies in the emergency department, even if they designated themselves as an organ donor, their organs go to the morgue," the lead researcher tells the Washington Post.
(Read more organ donor stories.)

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