Some of you may recall from some of my other posts linked above the so-called "Pittsburgh Protocol," also known as non-heart-beating donation, in which organs are harvested quite quickly after a patient's heart has stopped beating, during a time period when the patient might plausibly be able to be revived. Of course, if he's been designated as a donor, he isn't revived. His organs are harvested instead. In one hospital infants' hearts were harvested when the babies had ceased to breathe or to have spontaneous heartbeat for only seventy-five seconds, but the usual protocol is that harvesters must wait at least two minutes. It used to be five.
New proposals by the relevant regulatory agency would completely remove all protocols for waiting after the cessation of patient heartbeat. In other words, harvesters could begin to remove organs instantly after any minuscule time period of cessation of heartbeat and breathing (as if two minutes were not minuscule enough) and after a magical declaration of death. This, obviously, means that revivable patients will have their organs harvested. (In fact, as we saw in a previous entry, the re-attachment of machines for the sake of keeping organs oxygenated sometimes already results in the revival of the patient, who must be drugged to prevent this. Really.)
Is that disturbing enough? There's more: Under the new protocols, the evaluation of the patient as a potential organ donor can be made continuously, even before the family has decided to withdraw all life support. Let me repeat this another way: The independence of the decision to withdraw life support from the decision to donate organs is removed from the protocols. This means that families can be pressured at any time, even early on, to agree to donate the organs of a relative and also that the decision to donate will be able to influence decisions about further treatment and care.
An added interesting point: The new protocols specifically draw attention to people with upper spinal cord injury or end-stage musculoskeletal or pulmonary disease as patients who may be "suitable candidates" for non-heart-beating donation. But of course we're not targeting anyone! Not in the slightest.
You might want to reconsider that organ donor indication on your driver's license, now...
That's in America. In world news, Belgium is aggressively pursuing the coordination of organ donation with assisted suicide.