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Defending organ donation

August 05, 2007

Re "Doctor charged in death of donor," July 31

This article describes the practice of organ donation after cardiac death as occurring "before a patient is brain dead." Organ recovery only begins after an individual is declared dead, either by complete loss of brain function or complete loss of heart function. All state laws and all medical practices recognize these two separate methods of declaring death. Confusion of these references is to wrongly suggest that the donation process begins before death, or that one method of determining death is more definitive than the other.

The article also reports concerns over "removing life support from a patient for the purpose of retrieving organs." This is never the case. The determination to remove supportive measures is made before, and independently from, any determination of organ donation.

Organ donation provides families an option for some good to come from their loved one's death.

Timothy L. Pruett MD

Richmond, Va.

The writer, a professor of transplantation surgery at the University of Virginia, is president of the United Network for Organ Sharing.

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