Legal Authority to Preserve Organs in Cases of Uncontrolled Cardiac Death: Preserving Family Choice
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The gap between the number of organs available for transplant and the number of individuals who need transplanted organs continues to increase. At the same time, thousands of transplantable organs are needlessly overlooked every year for the single reason that they come from individuals who were declared dead according to cardio pulmonary criteria. Expanding the donor population to individuals who die uncontrolled cardiac deaths will reduce this disparity, but only if organ preservation efforts are utilized. Concern about potential legal liability for temporary preservation of organs pending a search for family members appears to be one of the impediments to wider use of donation in cases of uncontrolled cardiac death in states without statutes explicitly authorizing such action. However, we think that the risk of liability for organ preservation under these circumstances is de minimis, and that concerns about legal impediments to preservation should yield to the ethical imperative of undertaking it.