NYC's new Rapid Organ Recovery Ambulance

A program coming from New York will allow the city to dispatch a special Organ Recovery Ambulance to secure the viability of the recently deceased while they obtain permission to have the organs donated. In an article on USA Today, the program is described as way to buy time to get to potential donors (22,000 annually in the US) who die outside of a hospital and are ineligible for organ donation. The basic scope would be:

1. Inject heparin, a blood thinner, into the IV started by paramedics, to prevent blood clots.

2. Continue ventilating the patient through the endotracheal tube inserted by paramedics into the patient’s trachea, to keep the organs oxygenated.

3. Continue chest compressions, using an automated compression device that squeezes the chest, to keep blood pumping through the potential donor and perfusing the organs.

4. Transport the body to the hospital, where further preservation measures would be taken as the family is consulted about the deceased’s wishes regarding organ donation.

Source: Bellevue Hospital, New York City Fire Department and New York Organ Donor Network

RORA is still in the proposal phase though, and could potentially begin next month some time if all goes well. I know the big issue here is patient rights and family consent, but I view it as a measure to ensure life – not really a medical procedure in the literal sense. I know, I’m biased.

There are a lot of issues revolving around whether or not the deceased person is a signed donor or not – because if they are, then the RORA team would be acting in accordance with their wishes as a listed donor. With only 1% +/- of people who die at hospitals being eligible, and 99,134 listed recipients people need all the help they can get. For more information there is a Q&A attached to the article.

I don’t usually use my blog for a soapbox, but I have to say that some of the comments for that article include several of the most ignorant statements I have ever read involving organ donation and transplanting. One comment even goes so far as to say not to sign the organ donation card because doctors will let you die. That’s the kind of stuff that I love about the internet. Well in the case of that one we know the brain is not a viable organ….

This is an excellent program, and will inevitably save lives – I don’t know how anyone who thinks about it logically could have a problem with that.

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