Views of pediatric intensive care physicians on the ethics of organ donation after cardiac death

Ajit A. Sarnaik, Jeff A. Clark, Kathleen L. Meert, Ashok P. Sarnaik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:: Donation after cardiac death has been endorsed by professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics as a means of increasing the supply of transplantable organs. However, ethical concerns have been raised about donation after cardiac death, especially in children. This study explores the views of pediatric intensive care physicians on the ethics of pediatric donation after cardiac death. DESIGN:: Internet survey. SUBJECTS:: Physician members of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section of Critical Care. INTERVENTIONS:: Physicians were emailed an anonymous survey consisting of four demographic items and 16 items designed to assess their views on the ethics of pediatric donation after cardiac death. Responses to ethics items were rated on a 5-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Physicians were also given the opportunity to provide free-text comments regarding their views. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:: Of the 598 eligible physicians, 264 (44.1%) responded to the survey. Of these, 193 (73.4%) were practicing in a transplant center and 160 (60.6%) participated in at least one donation after cardiac death procedure at the time of survey completion. Two hundred twenty (83.4%) agreed or strongly agreed that regarding donation after cardiac death, parents should be able to make decisions based on the best interests of their child. Two hundred twenty-two (84.1%) agreed or strongly agreed that it is not acceptable to harvest organs from a child before the declaration of death, consistent with the Dead Donor Rule. However, only 155 (59.1%) agreed or strongly agreed that the time of death in donation after cardiac death can be conclusively determined. Twenty-nine (11.0%) agreed or strongly agreed that the pediatric donation after cardiac death donor may feel pain or suffering during the harvest procedure. CONCLUSIONS:: Most pediatric intensive care physicians agree that the Dead Donor Rule should be applied for donation after cardiac death and that donation after cardiac death can be consistent with the best interest standard. However, concerns about the ability to determine time of death for the purpose of organ donation and the possibility of increasing donor pain and suffering exist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1733-1744
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Volume41
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Keywords

  • end-of-life care
  • ethics
  • non-heart-beating organ donor
  • organ donation
  • survey
  • withdrawal of life support

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