Why was this question raised?
In posthumous donation, healthy organs are taken from a deceased person and transplanted to those who need them. It is important for the family of the deceased, which gives permission for this, to know whether a loved one really died. Confidence in doctors helps people make an informed decision whether to allow organ harvesting after a death confirmed by doctors.
After circulatory arrest, the medical option for posthumous donation exists for a short period of time between death and organ harvesting. At the same time, it is widely believed that people often come back to life minutes after they were officially pronounced dead. There was relatively little scientific information about how long after cardiac arrest was irreversible.
“We understand that there are stories about people returning to life, and they are circulating among the medical community. So we really would like to provide scientific evidence on the dying process to dispel possible myths for humans, ”said Sonny Dhanani of the Eastern Ontario Children’s Hospital Research Institute, co-author of the study, in a comment to Gizmodo.
Five minutes and 14 percent
Since 2014, an international team of scientists has been collecting data on what signs of life the human body gives after doctors stop artificial life support. The study was conducted in the USA, Czech Republic and Canada. It included only those dying whose relatives gave permission for posthumous donation.
In the study, scientists tested how correct the current recommendations are – in different countries, after a person’s death, before organ harvesting, you should expect from 2 to 10 minutes.
In this study, there was not a single case of incorrect timing of death. However, it turned out that the straight line on the cardiogram after death may not be entirely straight. In about 14% of patients, scientists found moments of electrical activity in the heart that lasted no more than a few seconds. These bursts of activity lasted less than four minutes and did not lead to cardiac recovery.
“Doctors and families need to be aware that this is happening in 14%. But they must be prepared for the fact that this does not mean that a person will come back to life, ”said Danani.
The scientists concluded that their data supported the current widespread standard of waiting five minutes after death.