Corpse blood

Another wholesome topic: When a person suffers brain death in an accident, their organs can be donated. I was wondering if blood can be/is harvested in the same way.

No, it becomes curdled.

See a video called ‘Curdled’

No. Once the life functions cease, the blood stops flowing and starts to clot. Even if they kept the heart pumping artificially, it is doubtful that they would use the blood because in most cases, assorted toxins build up in it from the trauma the body experienced, plus whatever medications they injected in an effort to save the person.

Now, in some cases in surgery, when a person for religious reason may not accept the blood of others and none of their own is on hand, they can salvage the blood leaking from the incisions, filter it, and return it to the body. There is some loss due to crushing of then platelets during the suction and recovery operations, but those are filtered out, along with any bits of tissue. The process is a bit risky because certain platelets, when ruptured, release a chemical cue which triggers the clotting mechanism and they don’t want blood clotting up in small arteries. I think they might have to include an anticoagulant in the return mix.

He’s talking about someone who suffers brain death while the body is in fine health. Theoretically, you could keep brain-dead individuals physically alive for a long time and harvest quite a lot of blood, I guess. The ethical considerations are pretty severe. How about a new donor card: “In case of brain death, please feel free to turn me into a living blood machine.”

When a person is declared braindead and the decision is made to donate the organs, a complicate process is set in motion. The donor must be tested for tissue type and for various diseases, the electrolytes must be normalized, and the various vasopressor IV drips must be titrated off. (Anyone who is sick enough to become braindead is likely to be on some powerful medications in an attempt to save that person’s life; before donation we have to get all that shit out of the donor’s system.) The donations I’ve been involved in have typically lasted a day or two.

While the nurse is trying to stabilize the donor and get those organs all healthy and ready to go, the organ donation team is on the phone to what seems like every hospital in the country, trying to coordinate recipients. Often, the donation is cancelled at the last moment when the hepatitis panel comes back positive; you can’t donate much if you have hepatitis. (BTW, this happens often; hepatitis is far more common than people imagine.) If the donor has hepatitis, he can’t donate blood, either.

In preparing the donor for the recovery (I like that word better than “harvest”), it is common to give the dead person blood in the process of normalizing all those lab values. Yes, on several occasions I have GIVEN blood to a corpse.

When the recovery finally happens, the donor is taken to the OR and the organs are removed, leaving the heart for last. Blood is not harvested. Blood is pretty easy to come by; a healthy new heart is not.

“Harvest” is definitely gruesome, but “recovery”? If I undergo a recovery while doctors are busy removing my organs, I’m going to be seriously pissed! That’s the sort of “never-gonna-happen” UL that keeps people from donating in the first place.

“Organ recovery” means the same as “organ harvest”; it’s just a less unpleasant term. It’s the organs that are recovered; the organ donor does not recover. Sheesh.

Slightly off-topic post: does “brain death” mean that the tissue of the brain is actually necrotic? Or does it just mean that the brain has ceased to function as an organ?

It means the brain has ceased to function: there is no blood flow to the brain, and no electrical activity is taking place. To determine brain death, various tests are performed. A brain dead person cannot breathe (the doctor turns off the ventilator to see if the person takes any breaths on his own), has no cough or gag reflex; he won’t respond to any stimuli such as pinching his nailbeds, cramming a Q tip up his nose, or poking him in the eyeball. A brain dead person is legally dead.

People generally don’t understand the concept of brain death. The person looks alive, his skin is warm, his heart is still beating, he looks like he’s breathing because the ventilator is giving him breaths. Recently, I took care of a guy who was brain dead and whose family decided to donate his organs. The family came in to say goodbye; at that time a cousin came in and upon learning that they’d decided to donate, she freaked out. “You can’t give up on him! Why do you want to give up on him! You can’t do this!”

Another relative came in and told this poor boy’s parents that he personally knew someone who had been declared brain dead and who had made a full recovery. (This is simply not possible.) Despite the (horrible, in my opinion) actions of these family members, the man’s parents proceeded with the donation.

I hope that their generosity has given them some small measure of comfort in dealing with their loss.