Trustees at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames have agreed on a new organ-donor policy. Vice President Neal Loes explains it changes the standard “brain-death” criteria for determining when a patient becomes a donor.In some cases of a terminal condition that’s incurable or irreversible, the patient and family can decide to donate when a ventilator is removed if it’s all that’s keeping them alive. Loes says a handful of Iowa hospitals have adopted the new guidelines, and it won’t affect many patients. Loes says the change shouldn’t raise any questions that donors might still be alive.He says the person’s heart has completely stopped and it’s confirmed by a doctor before surgeons start. Time is a critical issue in organ donation, Loes explains.Soon as death occurs, tissue starts to suffer damage so it must be done quickly and planned ahead. If you’ve thought about being an organ donor, the first place to put it in writing is on your driver’s license, the official way to register as a donor in Iowa. But make sure to talk to your family about it, too.The license isn’t enough; the Iowa Donor Network requires that if a patient can’t declare he’s a donor the family must say so. Loes says the shortage of donor organs still leaves many patients without lifesaving donations, and the new policy might be a small step toward helping.
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