Donation After Cardiac Death (Wait, I needed that!)

Donation after cardiac death (DCD) is an emerging standard in hospitals. In the past, brain-death has been the gold standard for the dead. Why does it matter? The demand for human organs in good condition for transplant is ravenous; fresh is better, and transplant doctors would rather harvest the organs as soon as possible after death.

This past June, Ottawa Hospital in Canada announced its first organ transplant in recent history from a patient who hadn't been classified as brain-dead, but whose heart had stopped (that is, "donation after cardiac death" (DCD). By switching to this definition of death for transplant purposes, doctors hope to increase the number of potential donors from which they can be harvested. Physicians at the World Transplant Congress in Boston estimated that the pool of available organs could increase by as much as twenty percent.

Long-time readers of science fiction writer Larry Niven know of a way to increase the pool of available organs by an order of magnitude - organlegging.

The doctor took him apart with exquisite care, like disassembling a flexible, fragile, tremendously complex jigsaw puzzle... If the odds broke right, if the right people came down with the right diseases at the right time, the organlegger might save more lives than he had taken...
(Read more about organlegging)

Niven gets the early bird award for this one - the text is from his 1967 story The Jigsaw Man. If you think that the illegal harvesting of human organs for transplant can't possibly be a problem, read Real Organleggers: Human Organ Trafficking.

Read a bit more here; thanks to Baba for contacting us with the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/7/2006)

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