Buying Time for Organ Recovery

New York's first-in-nation ambulance crew would prepare potential donor bodies outside hospital


 
 

Robert Davis | | Thursday, May 8, 2008


NEW YORK -- New York City officials plan within months to dispatch the nation's first ambulance equipped to preserve bodies of the newly dead so that families have time to consider organ donation.

The controversial twist: Crews would swoop in and perform procedures on a body without consent so they can preserve the organs until the family had time to give permission for organ donation. No organs would be taken without consent.

The proposal for the Rapid Organ Recovery Ambulance followed complaints from families who were told their loved one, who had wanted to be an organ donor, could not donate because the person died outside a hospital.

Bradley Kaufman, medical director for quality assurance at the New York City Fire Department, says: "We've had families say, 'He wanted to be an organ donor. How can we make that happen?'" But because his crews were not transporting the patient, he says, they couldn't help them donate.

The goal of the program, which has federal funding and is being watched closely by the nation's other emergency medicine and transplant teams, is to buy time.

Most organs today come from either living donors who give a kidney or part of their healthy liver or from people pronounced brain-dead in the hospital while their hearts are still beating. Both scenarios give time to obtain family consent.

About half of the 12,000 people nationally who are eligible to donate organs after brain death become organ donors. But a much larger pool of potential donors who die from cardiac arrest outside the hospital an estimated 22,000 people a year don't get considered for organ donation.

One reason is that once crews declare a death in the field, they avoid unnecessary medical costs and reduce risks by eliminating the lights-and-siren run to the hospital.

But some doctors and families are expected to dislike the idea of performing procedures without consent.

"It is very difficult to try to do what is right without doing harm," says Nancy Dubler, director of bioethics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Dubler heads the ethics group considering the plan.

If the idea flies, the ambulance could be on the streets as early as next month.

"We're moving slowly," says Lewis Goldfrank, professor and chairman of emergency medicine at Bellevue Hospital, who heads the team. "There is immense potential, but the No. 1 topic is the ethics."




Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Leadership and Professionalism, Legal and Ethical, Specialty Vehicles

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Four Killed in New Mexico Medical Plane Crash

Crash near fairgrounds claims patient and crew of three.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Involved in Crash

Odessa ambulance and car collide during response.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Las Vegas Fire, AMR Reach New Deal

Tentative agreement reached over ambulance calls.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Fire Damages Several Homes in California Earthquake

Four homes destroyed and others damaged after quake rattles Napa.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

New Mexico Air Ambulance Crash

NTSB investigates crash that killed four.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Where in the World of EMS is A.J.? Scranton

JEMS Editor-in-Chief visits his hometown of Scranton, Pa.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Over 100 Injured in California Earthquake

172 patients treated at Napa hospital after 6.0-magnitude earthquake.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >