Expert advocates change in law to allow organ harvesting without brain death

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The president of the Portuguese Transplantation Society today defended a change in the law that allows organ harvesting from people who are at the end of life, in intensive care, who are not declared brain dead.

“Unfortunately, in Portugal and worldwide, there is a shortage of organs for transplantation, because they also do not yet collect all those who die,” said Cristina Jorge, pointing to the case of people in “controlled cardiocirculatory arrest”.

Expert advocates change in law to allow organ harvesting without brain death

“Donors in controlled cardiocirculatory arrest are people who are in intensive care, in end-of-life situations and to whom the support devices are turned off, because there is no chance for that person”, explains the president of SPT.

The specialist recalls that, in Portugal, these people are not considered donors – because brain death is not declared – and these organs end up not being used, unlike what happens, for example, with donors in “uncontrolled cardiocirculatory arrest”.

“These are people who are going about their normal lives and they suffer a cardiac arrest and are resuscitated and taken to hospital. If that resuscitation is not successful, they can be considered donors and their organs can be used,” he explained.

In order for organs to be used in cases of donors “in controlled cardiorespiratory arrest”, Cristina Jorge said the law would have to be changed.

“In other countries this already happens,” she said, noting: “Often, you don’t get to that brain-dead situation.”

For the president of SPT, who spoke to Lusa as part of the National Day of Organ Donation and Transplantation, which is marked on Thursday, a change in the law could increase the number of donors and organs available for transplantation.

In Portugal, all citizens can be considered potential organ donors, provided they do not express opposition to donation in the National Register of Non-Donors.

Data from the Portuguese Institute of Blood and Transplantation (IPST) released in April indicate that, last year, 814 organ transplants were performed, 15 more than in 2021. The figures also point to the highest number of transplanted lungs ever – 76 organs in 39 patients.

In 2021, Portugal ranked 4th in the world for deceased donor organ donation, with 29.6 donors per million inhabitants (pmh).

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