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Understanding Organ Donation

Brain Death & Donation After Circulatory Death

We all know what death means. And for most of us, that means our heart and brain stop functioning. But, sometimes the brain dies and the heart continues to beat only with the support of mechanical ventilators in the intensive care unit. You can rely on us to help you understand the process differences between brain death (BD) and donation after circulatory death (DCD) – both which can provide potential healing through organ, eye and tissue donation.

Please don’t hesitate to call your LifeSource Hospital Liaison for general information or call LifeSource at 1-800-247-4273 for real-time assistance. Your responsibility is to educate yourself on the policies and procedures at your hospital, specifically.

Moment of silence

Organ Donation Criteria

Which pathway are we on?

A potential organ donor must meet the following criteria:

  • Neurological/brain death or nonsurvivable injury;
  • Be on ventilated support; and
  • A heart beat with normal blood pressure.

Brain death is the irreversible cessation of all brain activity, including the brain and brain stem. The brain dies from lack of blood/oxygenation. Brain death is death.

Circulatory death is the irreversible cessation of all circulatory and respiratory function. Circulation and oxygenation stops. Ventilated patient has not deteriorated to brain death. This may still be an opportunity for organ donation for patients/families when brain death has not occurred.

The process of donation begins with the incident causing the death and continues through the bereavement. Every health care professional who interacts with the family is part of the process, and every step impacts on the family’s ultimate decisions regarding donation.

Margaret B. Collican, RN, MS, CDE, National Donor Family Council
Frequently Asked Questions

Brain Death Explained

Donation After Circulatory Death (DCD) Explained

Have Questions?

Reach out to your LifeSource liaison.

Our hospital liaisons are a resource for more than 270 hospitals in our region. They help hospitals maintain their donation programs by assisting with policy and protocol development, analyzing data, preparing for regulatory surveys and providing education on the donation process.

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