A days-old infant sustained severe neurological injury after being asphyxiated during birth, but the dying baby’s condition did not meet the criteria for brain death — long the only circumstance under which vital organs were procured. The baby was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colo., a suburb of Denver, where the family decided to withdraw life support. Family members also agreed to let surgeons there attempt to transplant the baby’s heart into an infant born with complex congenital heart disease.
But to accomplish this, the potential donor heart had to stop working. The question: How long after cardiac functioning ceased should the retrieval team wait to ensure the baby’s heart would not restart without intervention? The complicating factors: Odds of successful transplantation decrease as the wait after cessation of cardiocirculatory function increases. But acting too soon can make retrieval seem like death by organ donation.
The Denver team waited 75 seconds.
The whole shebang.