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Are Non-Heart-Beating Organ Donors Dead?

Delivered in English

The “dead donor” rule restricts the removal of vital organs from living persons. While most vital organ transplants come from donors who have been declared dead based on the neurological criterion for determining death, i.e., total brain failure, some vital organs come from non-heart-beating donors that are thought to satisfy the traditional criteria for determining death, namely, the irreversible loss of circulation and respiration. Under current protocols involving such donors, the transplant team will wait anywhere from 75 seconds to five minutes of asystole before removing organs. However, critics of such protocols question whether the cessation of circulation and respiration in these donors is truly “irreversible.” In their view, because we could intervene to artificially resuscitate these donors, the potential for the resumption of their functions still exists. Consequently, these critics argue that the donors have not satisfied the “irreversibility” requirement in the circulatory and respiratory criterion for determining death and thus removing their vital organs violates the “dead donor” rule. In this lecture, I examine what “irreversibility” means in this context. Must we wait until it would be impossible to restart the heart? Or can we declare death both quickly and ethically?

Short bio.
John Lizza”s main philosophical interests are in bioethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. He is particularly interested in persons and personal identity, and how these concepts affect the analysis and evaluation of issues in bioethics, such as the moral status of the human embryo and the definition of death. He teaches a variety of courses, including Medical Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophical Aspects of Death and Dying, Persons, Life and Death, Human Love and Sexual Morality, Ethical Issues in Medicine and Biology, Environmental Philosophy, and Critical Thinking.

Delivered in English
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