The quantity of organs available from dead donors is limited, and many persons on the organ waiting list pass away before receiving one. If you are in an accident and are ruled legally dead, an organ procurement organization (OPO) member must acquire permission from your family to donate your organs. Generally, permission is granted if they are told that it can help save lives. Otherwise, they would be taking money for something that cannot be paid with cash.
In some cases, OPOs will take organs even if permission has not been given by the family, such as when there is no other option available for patients on dialysis or patients with severe brain damage. This practice is called "living donation". Although doing so increases the risk of infection, blood diseases, and cancer, it can help more people receive transplants.
An individual who takes part in this process is called a "donor surgeon" or "organ donor surgeon".
Although it is possible to donate organs after death, most donations occur while you are still alive. After you have been declared brain-dead, your family may change their mind and decide not to donate your organs. You can't force them to do this. Even if they agree, that doesn't mean that your organs will be used. Once your family says no, they say yes only if they are told that their "no" means yes.
Organ donation is only possible if brain death has been established and the time of death has been recorded. Every patient who has died or is on the verge of dying is notified by the hospital to the local Organ Procurement Organization (OPO). This complies with federal regulations. The OPO checks to see if you are a match for one or more patients in need of an organ transplant. If you are, your family is contacted and given information about organ donation.
You can also be an organ donor after you die if that idea isn't too scary for you. Some people feel better knowing they've helped others by making this choice earlier in life instead of later when it's too late. The decision and its consequences should be discussed with your family members or friends who know you well. They can help you think through what it would be like to donate your organs after you die.
The law allows families to decide how they want their loved ones' bodies handled after they die. If you don't want your body used for medical research or donated to science, then you should tell your family so they don't go ahead with these procedures. However, if you don't say anything, then they have the right to assume you want your body to be used as evidence in legal proceedings or for scientific research. In some cases, your wishes may not be clear cut.
Someone who is brain dead will not be able to recover. The OPO checks to see if they are eligible donors and also collects information about the type of surgery needed. If someone wants to donate an organ(s) after they die, their family members or friends can ask that person's OPO to do so.
The answer depends on how you define "harvest." Yes, you can harvest organs from a deceased person. However, in order for this to happen, the person must first become brain dead. Once this has been confirmed, your organization should be contacted so that they can provide any additional information that may help them with donor care. Brain death prevents any further neurological activity and therefore removes all hope of recovery for the individual. After brain death has been confirmed, your organization can make decisions regarding what happens to the body next.
Here at UC San Francisco, we believe that respect for life and dignity should always guide us as doctors and scientists. Our neurocritical care team has developed guidelines to help prevent the practice of organ harvesting. These guidelines state that patients on life support systems should never be considered for removal of organs unless there is evidence that doing so would not violate their values system.