Pain in brain-dead patients

Letter to the Editor of the Montreal Gazette.

With reference to the article “Leading British doctors urge anesthetics for brain-dead organ donors” (Gazette, 20 Aug 2000, page A10), I find it surprising that the British Department of Health would reject in such a cavalier fashion the possibility that brain-dead individuals might experience pain when organs are harvested without anesthetic. Are governments not supposed to err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting defenseless individuals? I, for one, would be extremely reluctant to sign an organ donor card if I were led to believe, as this article does, that a government agency charged with looking after my interests would categorically reject a humane and compassionate recommendation from physicians working on the front lines. What could they possibly be thinking? Their policy is certain to reduce the number of donated organs available for transplant.

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