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Kidney Transplants Before Death?

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A proposed protocol by one doctor would have surgeons remove kidneys for transplant if donor’s death is imminent.

The severe shortage of viable organs for transplantation in the U.S. has led a transplant surgeon to propose harvesting kidneys from people who are not dead yet.

Dr. Paul Morrissey, an associate professor of surgery at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, wrote in The American Journal of Bioethics that the protocol known as donation after cardiac death – meaning death as a result of irreversible damage to the cardiovascular system – has increased the number of organs available for transplant, but has a number of limitations, including the need to wait until the heart stops.

Because of the waiting time, Morrissey said that about one-third of potential donors end up not being able to donate, and many organs turn out to not be viable as a result.

He argues in favor of procuring kidneys from patients with severe irreversible brain injury whose families consent to kidney removal before their cardiac and respiratory systems stop functioning.

“Under the protocol, the donor is alive at the time of kidney recovery, but a determination has been made and confirmed by medical experts that death is imminent,” he wrote.

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