… The truth behind organ donation & organ transplants
By Jennifer Kahn
None of this is what I expected from an organ transplant. … In all my preliminary research on transplants, the dead man was rarely mentioned. Even doctors I spoke with avoided the subject, and popular accounts I came across ducked the matter of provenance altogether. In the movies, for instance, surgeons tended to say it would take time to “find” a heart - as though one had been hidden behind a tree or misplaced along with the car keys. Insofar as corpses came up, it was only in anxious reference to the would-be recipient whose time was running out.“…Even brain-dead bodies require sedation, since spinal reflexes can make a corpse “buck” in surgery”
In the dead man's room, a different calculus is unfolding. Here the organ is the patient, and the patient a mere container, the safest place to store body parts until surgeons are ready to use them. … Even an ailing cadaver is a better container than a cooler.
…the only situation that really lends itself to harvest is brain death, which means finding an otherwise healthy patient whose brain activity has ceased but whose heart continues to beat - right up until the moment it's taken out. In short, victims of stroke or severe head injury.
One anesthesiologist confesses that his peers don't like to work on cadaveric organ recoveries. (Even brain-dead bodies require sedation, since spinal reflexes can make a corpse “buck” in surgery.) “You spend all this time monitoring the heartbeat, the blood pressure,” the anesthesiologist explains. “To just turn everything off when you're done and walk out. It's bizarre.”
…the heart will go to Cryolife, a biosupply company that irradiates and freeze-dries the valves, then packages them for sale to hospitals in screw-top jars.
(Extract from “Stripped for Parts”, Jennifer Kahn, Wired, Issue 11.03, March 2003. Viewed Dec 18, 2010 at: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.03/parts.html )