April 27, 2005
More than you ever wanted to know...Topics: Medical Issues
The circumstances surrounding Teron Francis have prompted much discussion on the diagnosis of brain death and organ donation. In the interest of encouraging factual research and formation of opinions based on documented investigation rather than propaganda, I want to refer all interested readers to this publically available electronic book titled The Nasty Side of Organ Transplanting.
The author is clearly against organ donation. I have managed to corroborate a few of the facts and arguments he presents elsewhere. I learned some very interesing information from this book that at the very least has caused me to question the assumption I've held until now (though with reservations) that organ donation is basically a noble and good thing.
Here are a few of the things I learned:
The very first heart transplant took place in 1967. It was after this transplant that Harvard University set up an ad hoc committee to examine the condition of brain death.
This committee of thirteen neurologists, neurosurgeons, lawyers, philosophers and an anaesthetist decided in August 1968 that death could be proclaimed if a patient failed to respond to a series of reflex tests. They called it the Harvard Criteria of Brain Death Test. This allowed a patient with a healthy, beating heart and fully operating renal and endocrine system to be defined as dead, just like a cold corpse.This is significant to me because I had previously believed that the determination of "brain death" had become necessary with the invention of ventilators, heart/lung machines and other such equipment.
While some organs, such as kidneys and eyes, may be obtained from a donor who is dead as in no breathing, no heart beat, there are organs, such as heart and lungs, that can only be obtained while the donor remains on life support with the heart beating throughout the harvesting operation. This is something even the promoters of organ donation will admit, though they do not exactly advertise it.
The standards for determining brain death vary widely depending on the location and policies of the hospital, and the diagnostic methods all have issues ranging from inaccuracy to possibly even aggravating brain damage.
Due to the high demand for donor organs and other body parts, there is considerable motivation to accelerate a diagnosis of brain death in an organ donor patient compared to a non organ donor. Physicians attending the brain-injured have reported receiving pressure from the organ transplant teams to declare a patient brain dead.
There have been reported instances of organ donors exhibiting physical fear reactions (increased pulse rate, flailing of limbs) to the organ harvesting process. It has also been recommended that donors be given pain medication during the harvesting.
Medications given to preserve a patient's organs can be harmful to the brain, and efforts to save the brain from further damage can compromise the viability of the organs from a transplanting perspective.
There are numerous issues on the receiving end of an organ transplant. Many recipients do not even survive the surgery. Those who do need to be on immune suppressant drugs to prevent rejection; those drugs make them vulnerable to many other diseases. Receiving an organ transplant has been described as trading one medical condition for another. Often, the survival rate of organ recipients is not better than for those with the same condition that did not receive a transplant.
There is much, much more. I would say that anyone who is considering either donating or receiving an organ should read this and make sure the issues raised are addressed to your satisfaction. I would also encourage more independent verification of the material because if even half of what is written is true, the implications are chilling.
Cross-posted on Powers That Blog.
Posted by powersthatblog at April 27, 2005 1:45 AM
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