Development of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Policy for the Care of Terminally Ill Patients Who May Become Organ Donors after Death Following the Removal of Life Support
- Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 3, Number 2, June 1993
- pp. 131-143
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In the mid 1980s it was apparent that the need for organ donors exceeded those willing to donate. Some University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) physicians initiated discussion of possible new organ donor categories including individuals pronounced dead by traditional cardiac criteria. However, they reached no conclusion and dropped the discussion. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, four cases arose in which dying patients or their families requested organ donation following the elective removal of mechanical ventilation. Controversy surrounding these cases precipitated open discussion of the use of organ donors pronounced dead on the basis of cardiac criteria. Prolonged deliberations by many committees in the absence of precedent ultimately resulted in what is, to our knowledge, the country's first policy for organ donation following elective removal of life support. The policy is intricate and conservative. Care was taken to include as many interested parties as possible in an effort to achieve representative and broad based support. This paper describes the development of the UPMC policy on non-heart-beating organ donation.