Organ Donation

by M-Rebeiro

Brain death is the irreversible end of all brain activity including involuntary activities, such as breathing, that are necessary to sustain life. Most organ donation is performed when a person is considered brain dead but is kept on ventilator support until their organs have been surgically removed.

Organ donation is defined as being the “donation of biological tissue or organ from a human body to a living recipient requiring a transplant”. Quite simply, the donor has their medical and social background checked and organs are surgically removed if they are deemed suitable. The nature of this procedure gives it a complicated history of ethics and legislature, similar though often more complicated than that of body donation.

The most common type of donation in modern times is donation during brain death, the state in which the body still functions but there is no mental activity. This is ideal since the organs have no chance of spoiling. Previously, cardiac death was the leading cause but growing ethical concerns due to the reversibility of cardiac conditions have caused it to achieve only moderate popularity. Living organ donation only really occurs for organs like kidneys, which are most commonly reserved for family and close friends.

Most parts of the world struggle to obtain the necessary quantity of usable organs for transplant. Many countries work on an opt-in service, where all prospective donors must consent before death. While Ontario, Canada wishes to create an online database to facilitate easy opt-ins, many countries in Europe have presumed organ donation, which requires a person opt-out to not have their organs donated. Swedish health authorities have even proposed paying people for organ donation rights.

Donations are typically kept local, but international organ donation is possible.

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