The “dead donor rule” was established in the context of organ donation to provide a societal assurance that organ recovery would not cause the death of a potential donor.1 Organs may be recovered for transplantation after death is declared either by a permanent absence of circulation and respiration in the patient or by an irreversible absence of brain function that includes cortical and brainstem activity.

Donation after cardiac death (DCD) involves recovering organs from patients who have been declared dead using circulatory-respiratory (as opposed to neurological) criteria. DCD donors (also known as non–heart-beating donors) are typically ventilator-dependent patients who have suffered devastating head trauma or stroke from an intracranial hemorrhage or anoxia but are not “brain dead.” (On a side note, in 2006 an Institute of Medicine [IOM] committee proposed a change in current terminology to eliminate any...

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