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December 01, 2023

A New Technique in Harvesting Organs Divides the Medical Community

A new method in retrieving hearts from potential organ donors has stirred up much debate regarding whether the technique is ethical. Prior to this new technique, only patients who had been declared brain dead could be eligible heart donors. The new technique  enables hearts to be harvested from comatose–but not brain dead–patients shortly after their hearts stop. According to the New York Times, “Surgeons have discovered that returning blood flow to the heart, after the donor has been declared dead, will restore the heart to a remarkable degree, making it suitable for transplant.” However, the new procedure requires surgeons to use metal clamps to limit blood flow to the donor’s brain, thereby preventing any possibility that brain activity is restored.  Critics say that this  step “is a tacit admission that the donor might not be legally dead,” and some have noted that using the procedure could raise the risk of criminal prosecution.  Critics are also concerned that these comatose patients may still be able to feel pain.

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