Ethical controversies in organ donation after circulatory death

Mary E. Fallat, Aviva L. Katz, Mark R. Mercurio, Margaret R. Moon, Alexander L. Okun, Sally A. Webb, Kathryn L. Weise

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The persistent mismatch between the supply of and need for transplantable organs has led to efforts to increase the supply, including controlled donation after circulatory death (DCD). Controlled DCD involves organ recovery after the planned withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and the declaration of death according to the cardiorespiratory criteria. Two central ethical issues in DCD are when organ recovery can begin and how to manage conflicts of interests. The "dead donor rule" should be maintained, and donors in cases of DCD should only be declared dead after the permanent cessation of circulatory function. Permanence is generally established by a 2- to 5-minute waiting period. Given ongoing controversy over whether the cessation must also be irreversible, physicians should not be required to participate in DCD. Because the preparation for organ recovery in DCD begins before the declaration of death, there are potential conflicts between the donor 's and recipient 's interests. These conflicts can be managed in a variety of ways, including informed consent and separating the various participants' roles. For example, informed consent should be sought for premortem interventions to improve organ viability, and organ procurement organization personnel and members of the transplant team should not be involved in the discontinuation of life-sustaining treatment or the declaration of death. It is also important to emphasize that potential donors in cases of DCD should receive integrated interdisciplinary palliative care, including sedation and analgesia. Pediatrics 2013;131:1021-1026

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1021-1026
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioethics
  • Children
  • Circulatory death
  • Ethics
  • Organ donation
  • Organ procurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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