Organization Considering New Rules Concerns Definition of “Death”
September 22, 2011
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a non-profit organization, has proposed changes to rules concerning organ donation in the United States, according to a recent article in the Washington Post. The end goal of the changes, according to Charles Alexander, the immediate past president of the organization, “is to facilitate the dying wishes of patients who wish to be donors and save the lives of the 112,000-plus patients who are in need.”
The rules UNOS are considering relate to donation after cardiac death (DCD). DCD has increasingly been bringing up the numbers of organ donations in an effort to fill the large gap between patients waiting for transplants and available organs for those transplants. While DCD proponents say this will help increase the availability and viability of donable organs in patients who are unquestionably going to die, critics counter the argument, saying DCD preys on dying patients.
According to the Post, since 1997, The National Academy of Sciences said that DCD was considered ethical, so long as the decision to withdraw care was independent of donation decisions, and that five minutes must elapse after the patient’s heart stops to make sure it doesn’t spontaneously start again. This has often been reduced from five to two minutes, and UNOS is looking at the possibility of new rules to allow hospitals to determine the right interval themselves.
This brings an important issue to light: what is the definition of “death?” Five minutes? Ten minutes? Two minutes?
For more information on the definition of death, visit the Center for Ethical Solution’s Defining Death webpage.
New Legislation Aimed at Organ Recipients
September 20, 2011
On Tuesday, August 30, three United States Senators introduced new bipartisan legislation aimed to improve the quality of life for persons suffering with kidney disease. According to a recent article from The State Column, the Act, entitled the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplants Act, seeks to aid patients in attaining immunosuppressive drugs needed after kidney transplants.
The legislation would extend Medicare coverage for immunosuppressive drugs from 36 months to lifetime coverage for all recipients, not just older or disabled individuals (who were granted lifetime coverage through a Congressional act in 2000).
“This bill will ensure that thousands of Americans can keep the transplants they have, allow thousands more to be transplanted and reduce the need for re-transplants of people who can no longer pay for vital medication and end up back on dialysis and the transplant waiting list,” said National Kidney Foundation President, Lynda Szczech.
The article also quoted the President of the American Society of Nephrology, Joseph Bonventre: “Extending lifetime coverage for immunosuppressive drugs is the right thing to do for patients. It guarantees patients’ quality of life, saves transplanted kidneys, and saves dollars.”
To track activity regarding the Durbin-Cochran Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2011, view the Open Congress webpage for the Act.
Obama to Fight Stigma, Support Families of PTSD Veterans
September 15, 2011
President Obama is on board to help end the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a recent article on the CBS News website. The August 30 article explains that Obama has called for an end to the stigmatization of veterans who suffer from the disease at a recent speaking engagement in Minnesota while addressing an American Legion Conference. The President has also begun sending condolence letters to service members’ families when a service member commits suicide while deployed, reversing a long-standing policy of not doing so.
According to the CBS report, Obama stated, “These American patriots did not die because they were weak. They were warriors. They deserve our respect. Every man and woman in uniform, and every veteran, needs to know that your nation will be there to help you stay strong. It’s the right thing to do.”
For more information on veterans and PTSD, visit the Center for Ethical Solutions FAQ sheet on PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. Further information on Obama’s reversal of the condolence letter policy can also be found on the CBS News site.