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The Moment of Death


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#1
Ungodly

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Having recently been present at the bedside of a dying loved one, my mother, it became apparent to me that there is, at least sometimes, a very fuzzy line that separates life and death.

My mothers passing was peaceful and free of pain, and all 4 of her children were present, along with a grandchild and several of our spouses.  I was standing right beside her when she took her last breath.

It was obvious that morning when my two sisters, my husband, and I arrived at the care facility that her death was imminent. She was completely unresponsive and her breathing was very erratic. We observed that she was taking deep labored breaths about once every minute or two. Eventually she took a breath and then did not take another.  My younger sister was standing across from me, and happened to be checking our mother's pulse at the moment that her heart stopped.  We waited another moment or two before all of us in the room reached the conclusion that she had gone, and then one of us called in a nurse's aide, a wonderfully kind and compassionate young lady.

The nurse's aide concluded that our mother had died, but Pennsylvania law required her to get a registered nurse to reach the legally official conclusion.  So the actual moment of death that was recorded was perhaps 2 minutes later than we, her children, perceived.  In this case the difference was trivial and completely unimportant as she was an 86 year old woman in extremely poor health, and we all knew that her situation was terminal.

There are cases where the decision to declare a person deceased may have a very great impact on other people's prospect for continuing their own lives. I'm referring, of course, to the increasingly common practice of harvesting major organs and other tissue in order to prolong the lives of others.  It seems clear that in the general sense it is a wise and ethical practice to perform organ transplants.  But increasingly long lines of people waiting for organ transplants, and the for-profit nature of health care in the USA present great challenges as we consider when it is correct to say a person has died, and when it is ethical to begin carving up their corpse.

This morning I read a story about the practice of declaring a potential organ donor as deceased based on the failure of their heart, and possibly independently of ongoing central nervous activity. See the article.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of doctors are ethical and caring people, and this is clearly a situation where one person's loss of life might prolong the lives of more than one. But I find it chilling to think that a person might be cut up and their organs harvested at a time when many might think they are still alive.  I've never had any involvement in a decision making process about organ transplants, and I hope I never do.

I've been told I have a very healthy and strong heart, but mine will never be used for any transplants because present medical practice assumes I must be infected with HIV since I am a gay man. It does not matter that in fact I have no such infection, my being gay makes me a medical pariah even for donating blood.  Were this not the case I'd sign an organ donor card.  I just hope I never have to be involved in making this kind of a decision about someone else that I love.

How would you define the moment of death?  How do you feel about organ transplants?

#2
Seti

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This is another one of those dilemmas we have given ourselves with the advances in medical science. In order to "harvest" the organs (what a horrible term for it, almost as bad as that other bit of medical tactlessness "vegetative state") the person has to be in a state many of us would still call "alive" - ie the blood is still circulating, the heart still beating. In practice, of course, this would be solely because they are hooked up to machinery. Death, in these circumstances, is taken as brain-death. But it must be incredibly hard for the relatives to walk away before that final "she's gone" moment. I think it's incredibly brave and unselfish for anyone to do that.

As for not wanting your organs because oh dear, you're gay, you might be HIV+, that just makes me want to go Posted Image.

:farao:

#3
The White Coyote

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Your story of your Moms death and my own Moms are quite similar, with a small exception. My Mom had been in the hospital for nearly a year. She had been "cured" of cancer, however the radiation treatment had severely burned the lining of her lungs and she was basically drowning. The Doctors had done everything they could but the fluids just kept building up. She was being kept alive with pumps and medications and tubes and needles. She looked horrible an slowly slipped into a coma. (Partially induced by huge amounts of morphine as the doctor promised my mother he would not let her suffer in pain.)

I was the one who had to make the decision to "pull the plug" I wrestled with that for several hours walking from her room to the roof of the hospital and to the cafeteria. Finally I Knew that it was the right thing nd I signed the paper. I had the family get ahold of everyone mom knew first to give them the opportunity to say goodbye. All day, visitors came and went. There was a lot of tears and hugs and after the crowd thinned down to just family I signed the order. It took 18 more hours before her body finally gave up but she simply stopped breathing. The bed she was in had a monitor on it and the nurses quietly came in and didn't have to say anything. Over 60 people came to my moms bedside that day, yet when the time came, the only people left in the room with her were my stepdad and us kids. There were well over 300 people at Moms funeral.

I believe that a person "dies" when the body can no longer support itself. The brain ceases to function. I do not know how I feel about organ donorship. I have seen so many peole die, yet I also believe in fate. When your time comes that's pretty much the end of it, yet maybe it isn't your time and a donated organ keeps you alive. It's always been a dilema for me and I have never been able to pin this one down. I will always wonder if given the opportunity, would I have authorized to have donated lungs transplanted to my mom? I will never know and maybe it's best that I won't.

#4
The Force

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I've heard that some doctors are pushing to get the "moment of death" recognized as when all cells in the body cease to function, aka "cell death." However, if one waited for that, organs would be no longer viable for transplantation.

I still vote for brain death to be the criterion; after all, we define personhood as an aggregation of all the traits that make us human, which are generated by the brain. This is not to diminish respect for persons in irreversible comas or on life support, but it's a thorny issue when it comes to organ donation. When should we harvest organs from the person?

Even anencephalic fetuses brought to term are allowed to die before their organs are removed...

#5
Frozenwolf150

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I've been told I have a very healthy and strong heart, but mine will never be used for any transplants because present medical practice assumes I must be infected with HIV since I am a gay man. It does not matter that in fact I have no such infection, my being gay makes me a medical pariah even for donating blood.  Were this not the case I'd sign an organ donor card.  I just hope I never have to be involved in making this kind of a decision about someone else that I love.

How would you define the moment of death?  How do you feel about organ transplants?

I'd say go ahead and sign the card.  If some homophobic idiot doesn't want your donated organs solely on the basis of that assumption, let's just say they probably deserve whatever is coming to them.  Then your donations can go towards saving the life of someone a little more rational, hopefully.

#6
Ungodly

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Well, it is the official policy of the US Government and the American Red Cross that I am not eligible to donate blood. Since all of my organs have been contaminated with my cootie infected faggot blood, my entire body is off limits to potential organ recipients.  Notable is the fact that this particular form of official US government discrimination against its queer citizens primarily denies straight people of possible sources of life-giving blood or tissues - since the majority of Americans are not gay.  I'm not harmed by being denied the opportunity to give blood, the people who otherwise might receive such blood are the ones being harmed.

As a matter of fact, since most Americans fail to deny being Christian, the real victims of this particular form of anti-gay bigotry are straight Christians.

Sure, I could fill out the organ donor paperwork, that is allowed. But at the time of my death it would become evident that my partner is of the same gender, and that would settle the matter.  My parts would go right into the biohazard bin if they had already been harvested before my orientation became known.

If the US government should decide at a later date that I am no longer automatically dying of AIDS, as an inescapable logical result of my being gay, then I'll proceed.  But at the present time it would be an exercise in futility as far as I can see.  It won't bother me that much either way, I suppose, if I'm dead.

Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
America hates queers
Jebus says we must!

#7
The White Coyote

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I can't donate anything either. I take this nasty medicine that if my blood were given to someone else it would kill them. That's an odd feeling knowing your blood is poisoned.

#8
kellbing

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I agree that brain activity is the deciding factor in whether a person is alive or not.

I am very much in support of organ donation. I do think we are over-populated and need to thin the herd a bit. I just prefer we do it by preventing so many babies rather than make existing humans suffer if they can be helped. I signed the organ donor card many years ago and am officially registered on the Gift of Life website. I figure I won't need them any more, so give them to someone who does.

#9
Unbeliever

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I recently heard about a fellow who woke up in a formerly Soviet country after 19 years in a coma. He's having a hard time adjusting to the new political climate.

#10
Superior Savior

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Sorry to jesus up this thread, but in light of news that the UK is trying to bring in legislation forcing everyone to give their organs away after they die, i thought it's topical. Probbably the best thing our government has done since the millenium, but thousands of people are protesting at the very idea of having their prescious organs removed from them after death. I hear it's some sacriligious body desecration; all the more reason to remove those organs by force!

Overpopulation is one of the world's biggest problems, but as Kellbang says, it's mostly caused by (often religiously motivated) high birth rates rather than the tiny effect our Western old have, organ donation is always a good thing. Though organs grown in a lab (probably from steam cells) would beat it, as you wouldn't need any doners or drugs to acccept them, but we can't get all the nails out of these jesus-freak's heads in one go.

[quote name='"UnGodly"]If the US government should decide at a later date that I am no longer automatically dying of AIDS' date=' as an inescapable logical result of my being gay, then I'll proceed[/quote']

Ohnoes! The all loving and benevolant god will send you to burn in hell for accepting bodily fluids from a fag, even if you didn't know who the blood came from! Because he can't let even the tinyest blood cell from a gay in his prescious het heaven. Why American's would rather die now of catastrophic Kidney faliure (brought on by drinking too much of the blood of christ) than die of aids in a few deccades i never knew. I wouldn't count on Rommey campaigning to raise AIDS awarness :)

[quote="UnGodly"]How would you define the moment of death? [/quote]
I'd say we die every seccond we live though; the body cells all die and are replaced over the course of a year, and the person we are (our mind) changes with each new expierience in life. The person you were as a 10 year old is dead now. The person you are now will be dead in a deccade's time.

That the moment of death is constantly bveing pushed back is one of the strongest arguments against an afterlife; people who'd be declaired dead (because their organs failed including the heart) years ago are alive today, and eventually it may be possible to "live on" without a brain by uploading your mind to another piece of hardware, so the monent of death is pretty dynamic. 


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