Die and let live

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 04 December 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1355
  1. Alison Pittard, consultant in intensive care (
  1. Leeds General Infirmary

    Today I did something I swore I would never do. In fact it was something I felt so strongly about that I had previously considered changing my job plan to avoid the issue. However, this afternoon I did it. I helped three people to live. What's so strange about that? After all, I am a doctor. Well, these three patients each received a life saving transplant from a non-heart beating donor.

    Most of my working week is spent on an intensive care unit in a large teaching hospital. I have been directly involved with many patients who have become brain stem dead and ultimately organ donors. The number of organ donors fell from 876 in 1992 to 773 in 2002, while the number of patients on the waiting list for a transplant has steadily risen. In response to this the national transplantation support service, UK Transplant, has looked at new initiatives to reduce the number of people who die while waiting for an organ. One initiative is the retrieval of organs from non-heart beating rather than …

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