Approximately 42,000 organ transplantations occurred in the United States last year, the highest amount ever. However, over 100,000 people are on the organ transplant waiting list at any given time. In a bid to close the large gap between donors and those waiting, UNMC in Omaha, NE published a new research protocol specifically for heart donor/transplantation. Normothermic Regional Perfusion for Resuscitation of Hearts from Donation After Circulatory Death (NRP-cDCD) refers to a technique whereby a donor is removed from life support, and per Nebraska law, surgeons wait 5 minutes after the heart stops beating before they are able to begin harvesting the organ. However, under the new protocol, once the chest cavity is cut open, blood flow is cut to the brain, causing brain death, and the patient is then reattached to the external circulatory pump. This ensures the reanimation of the heart and organs to prevent damage, allowing for transplantation. The alarming and stark ethical issue here is that the donor is not dead upon opening of the chest cavity, and the surgeon brings about death due to the cutting of the arteries feeding the brain. Is the donor conscious of what is happening? Does the donor feel pain? Was the donor or their family aware of the details and allowed Informed Consent?
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