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The truth behind
organ donation
& transplants

The truth behind organ donation & transplants


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… The truth behind organ donation & organ transplants

Copyright & Acknowledgemts  :  Foreword
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11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20
21   22   23   24   25   Appndx 1   Appndx 2
Endnotes :  ⇐Prev Chap :  Next Chap⇒


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The Nasty Side of Organ Transplanting.

Chapter 2

Donors May Need Anaesthetic

The residual doubts about the donor’s health status increase when he or she reaches the harvest table. Let’s imagine a twelve-year old girl has been diagnosed “brain dead” after being hit by a car while riding her bicycle. Her body is cleaned, shaved, tubes inserted and she is hooked up to various machines. She is paralysed with muscle-relaxant drugs. The transplant team pretends that this girl is a plain, dead corpse lying on the operating table.

The surgeon draws a clean, deep slice down the middle of her torso cutting through skin, muscle and fat. But then, as the surgery goes on, a strange thing occurs. Instead of lying there inert and unresponsive like a corpse, her blood pressure rises and her heart rate speeds up just as it does in patients undergoing therapeutic surgery - surgery for their own good - when they may be too lightly anaesthetized and feeling pain. In that situation, those are signs to the anaesthetist that a bit more anaesthetic is necessary.

More violent reactions which might otherwise be seen in the excision process are prevented by the preoperative injection of a drug like pancuronium. This prevents her torso jerking and bucking or her arms and legs flailing about. Or her body sitting up on the operating table with outstretched arms in what has been described as coordinated attempts to “grab the knife”. Masahiro Morioka describes it thus: “…brain dead patients sometimes move their hands toward the chest automatically and show a praying posture (known as the Lazarus sign)…” [8]

The anaesthetist, if there is one in attendance (as is not always the case these days), may also administer a morphine drip or anaesthetic to prevent possible pain to the donor during surgery, and to assuage their doubts and the distress of other theatre staff. Donation agencies bitterly resent medical staff using anaesthetic because they spend their working lives trying to persuade distressed parents and other next of kin that the patient has actually died.

But many medical experts doubt this.

Professional Opinion

The late Dr Phillip Keep, former consultant anaesthetist at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in the United Kingdom, risked his career by publicly saying what the anaesthetist profession had been debating privately for decades,

“Almost everyone will say they have felt uneasy about it. Nurses get really, really upset. You stick the knife in and the pulse and blood pressure shoot up. If you don't give anything at all, the patient will start moving and wriggling around and it’s impossible to do the operation. The surgeon always asked us to paralyse the patient.” [9]

Dr Keep added,

“I don't carry a donor card at the moment because I know what happens.” [10]

Theatre nurses also express doubt about the health status of the donor. Dr David Hill, also an anaesthetist, checked operating theatre registers at Addenbrooke Hospital in the United Kingdom and discovered that nurses recorded the time of death at the end of organ removal as if the donor had come in to the harvest room alive.[11] This contradicted the official time of death when the patient was diagnosed “brain dead”.

Dr David Wainwright Evans, a cardiologist, formerly of Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, England observed that,

“Nursing staff treat deep coma patients with continuing tenderness and address patients by name, as the coma deepens rather than lightens, perhaps from an intuitive feeling that hearing has been retained.” [12]

Dr Evans says surgeons tell of persistent uneasiness at the unpleasant job of harvesting organs, particularly the heart. He says they don't get over it despite doing it many times.

The Swedish medical writer, Nora Machado, quotes one expert as saying,

“…Even surgeons are sometimes heard to say that the patient suffered 'brain death' one day and 'died' the following day.”[13]

D.A. Shewmon, Professor of Neurology and Paediatrics, University of California (Los Angeles) School of Medicine, says some surgeons feel they are killing the donors.[14] He was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.[15]

Wendy Carlisle: So is “brain death” the death of the person, in your opinion?
Alan Shewmon: I used to think that it was. But in fact, during the 1980s and early 90s I read a number of articles and gave lectures supporting that idea, and since then I have had to change my opinion about it due to an accumulation of evidence to the contrary....
Wendy Carlisle: I think you’ve actually called somewhere the notion of “brain death” a medical fiction.
Alan Shewmon: A legal fiction.
Wendy Carlisle: A legal fiction. What does that mean, then, in your opinion for the whole donor debate?
Alan Shewmon: I guess it’s also a medical fiction. You’re right.

Dr David W. Evans is also amongst a number of medical professionals who doubt that all organ donors diagnosed “brain dead” are actually brain dead,

“The reason why the heart goes on beating in patients pronounced 'brain dead' is, usually, that their brain stems are not really and truly dead but still providing the ’sympathetic tone' necessary for the support of the blood pressure. In other words, the state of ’shock' (profound hypotension) that characterises the destruction of the brain stem has not occurred in those patients.”[16]

Dr David Hill concurs,

“A measure of life is the continuing hypothalamic function which controls body temperature. If the patient is warm then that part of the brain is functioning.”[17]

Despite scientific advances there still isn't an absolute determination when a person is finally dead

Japanese cardiologist, Dr Yoshio Watanabe adds,

“…if the entire brain including the brain stem has indeed sustained irreversible damage, cardiorespiratory arrest would inevitably ensue, bringing about the person’s death. However, the duration of this stage may well last for several days to several weeks when a respirator is used and hence, this stage at best only predicts that death of the individual is imminent, not that it is confirmed. The fact that some brain dead pregnant women have given birth to babies can be taken as strong evidence that the person is still alive, and the use of terms such as biomort or heart-beating cadaver is nothing but a sophism to conceal the contradiction in transplant protagonists’ logic.[18]

Medical and government authorities in the United Kingdom are now trying to stifle professional debate and public knowledge by telling medical staff in the government health system not to define death, and avoid terms like “brain death”. The new term is “certified dead” which avoids uncomfortable medical definitions that are difficult to defend or explain. Death is then when a doctor says the patient is dead, regardless.

But once an idea based on fact gains credence no power can crush it. It was Drs Basil Matta and Peter Young, who wrote the now famous editorial in “Anaesthesia”, the journal of the British Royal College of Anaesthetists, recommending the use of anaesthetic to prevent possible pain in donors,

“The act of organ donation is a final altruistic one and we should ensure the provision of general anaesthesia at least sufficient to prevent the haemodynamic response to surgery.”[19]

[8] Morioka, Masahiro. Reconsidering Brain Death: A Lesson from Japan’s Fifteen Years of Experience. Hastings Center Report 31, no.4 (2001): 41-46
http://www.lifestudies.org/reconsidering.html  … Accessed 8 May, 2007

[9] Guardian Newspaper, United Kingdom. Sarah Boseley, Health Correspondent. 19 August 2000 www.guardianunlimited.co.uk

[10] Guardian Newspaper, United Kingdom. Sarah Boseley, Health Correspondent. 19 August 2000 www.guardianunlimited.co.uk

[11] Potts, Michael; Byrne, Paul A. and Nilges, Richard, editors. Beyond Brain Death. Kluwer Academic Publications, London, United Kingdom. 2000

[12] Potts, Michael; Byrne, Paul A. and Nilges, Richard, editors. Beyond Brain Death. Kluwer Academic Publications, London, United Kingdom. 2000

[13] Machado, Nora, Using the Bodies of the Dead, Dartmouth Publishers, England, 1997. Dr Machado is quoting from Veatch:1993:18. Veatch, R. The Impending Collapse of the Whole Brain Definition of Death. Hastings Centre Report 1993a p 18-24.

[14] Potts, Michael; Byrne, Paul A. and Nilges, Richard, editors. Beyond Brain Death. Kluwer Academic Publications, London, United Kingdom. 2000

[15] Professor Shewmon spoke on “All In the Mind", Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. www.abc.net.au/rn/science/mind/s746719.htm  … Accessed 8 May 2007

[16] David Wainwright Evans, former cardiologist at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom. Personal correspondence to the author.

[17] David Hill, Dr David J. Hill MA FRCA (Emeritus consultant anaesthetist) of Cambridgeshire,United Kingdom. Personal correspondence to the author.

[18] Watanabe, Yoshio. "Why do I stand against the movement for cardiac transplantation in Japan”. from the Cardiovascular Institute, Fujita Health University School of Medicine. Toyoake, Japan July 21, 1994

Dr Watanabe recommends the following for further reference;
Dowie, M. We Have A Donor. A Bold New World of Organ Transplanting, Japanese translation by M. Hirasawa, Heibon-sha, Tokyo 1990
Kimbrel, S. The Human Body Shop. The Engineering and Marketing of Life, Japanese translation by S. Fukuoka Tokyo, Kagaku Dojin-sha 1995

[19] Young & Matta Editorial. Anaesthesia 2000;55;105-6 Correspondence Anaesthesia 2000 55;695-6

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