For many patients with terminal heart, lung, liver and kidney disease, organ transplantation is the treatment of choice and most often their only hope for survival. Organs retrieved in patients after a process called the neurological death determination (NDD) represent the principal source of organs transplanted in Canada. Neurological death, also called brain death, is the condition where a patient has an irreversible loss of consciousness and of the functions of the brain required to stay alive such as breathing. To ensure appropriate care for such patients, and also for the potential benefit of patients in urgent need of an organ, it is of uttermost importance to accurately identify potential patients in a state of neurological death and to proceed in a humane, accurate, timely and cost-effective manner to NDD.
Situations however happen when the physician can have difficulties to timely or accurately confirm neurological death. In other situations (around 35% of the time), for many different reasons, families of potentially neurologically dead patients decline organ donation.
This research program will inform the different stakeholders in the fields of neurocritical-care and organ donation regarding ways to improve the neurological death diagnosis by validating an accurate test to help doctors diagnose brain death. This research will also study beliefs and behaviors of families and doctors regarding NDD and organ donation. We hope that this program will, by improving the NDD process, help ensure the most appropriate care to patients with neurological death, and also help improve consent rates for organ donation in Canada.