The Anencephalic: A Suitable Donor? (1996)
Anencephaly Support Foundation; Contemporary Ethics Media
Should anencephalic infants serve as organ donors? Just as the title indicates, this program explores the question of whether parents of infants born with anencephaly ought to be allowed to donate their infant's vital organs by creating an exception to the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA) (1981). Anencephalic infants are infants born without most of their brain. In these infants, the cerebral cortex fails to develop and most of the brain and skull are missing above the eyes. Those anencephalic infants who are born alive have a functioning brain stem, which can maintain heartbeat and respiration for a few hours, a few days, or a few months. The definition of death in the United States is governed by the Uniform Determination of Death Act enacted in 1980, which requires the permanent loss of function of the whole brain, including the brain stem. By the time an infant's brain stem ceases functioning, his or her other organs generally also have suffered damage making them unsuitable for donation. Taking the organs of an anencephalic infant before this point in time however, would mean that the organs were taken before the anencephalic baby could be declared brain dead under the UDDA. This documentary film addresses the controversy about anencephalic infants as organ donors with opinions from both sides of the debate. The first portion of the video educates and the second portion contains statements by medical and ethical experts who take positions on both sides of the issue. Interviews take place with Alexander Capron, executive director of the President's Commission on Death and the author of the Uniform Determination of Death Act; Art Caplan, bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics; John Fletcher, bioethicist at the University of Virginia; David Orentlicher, director of the AMA's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs; Alan Shewmon, pediatric neurologist at U.C.L.A. School of Medicine; Shlomo Shinnar, pediatric neurologist with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Jim Walters, the bioethicist who wrote the Loma Linda Protocol; Anne Andis from the Anencephaly Support Foundation; and Gordon and Rosalyn Berne, parents of an anencephalic infant who sought to have their child's organs donated under the short-lived Loma Linda Hospital Protocol (1987- 1988). The approach is balanced and fair to both sides of the issue.
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