Caring for Patients or Organs: New Therapies Raise New Dilemmas in the Emergency Department

American Journal of Bioethics 17 (5):6-16 (2017)
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Abstract

Two potentially lifesaving protocols, emergency preservation and resuscitation and uncontrolled donation after circulatory determination of death, currently implemented in some U.S. emergency departments, have similar eligibility criteria and initial technical procedures, but critically different goals. Both follow unsuccessful cardiopulmonary resuscitation and induce hypothermia to “buy time”: one in trauma patients suffering cardiac arrest, to enable surgical repair, and the other in patients who unexpectedly die in the ED, to enable organ donation. This article argues that to fulfill patient-focused fiduciary obligations and maintain community trust, institutions implementing both protocols should adopt and publicize policies to guide ED physicians to utilize either protocol for particular patients, in order to address the appearance of conflict of interest arising from the protocols' similarities. It concludes by analyzing ethical implications of incentives that may influence institutions to develop the expertise required for uDCDD but not EPR.

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