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Organ Donation after Cardiac Death (DCD)

When the organs are removed, is the patient dead?

May I be with my loved one when they die?

Will my loved one feel any pain during the organ recovery?


DCD is an option for families of patients with severe brain damage who are not brain dead. After the decision has been made that the patient has no chance of survival and the family has decided to withdraw life-sustaining therapies, the family is offered the option of organ donation after cardiac death. If the family agrees, the Alabama Organ Center evaluates the patient for medical suitability. At a time agreed upon by the family and the primary medical team, life-sustaining therapies would be discontinued. The withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies is not done by physicians affiliated with transplantation or procurement, but by the patientís primary care team. Once the patientís heart stops beating, the patientís physician pronounces death. After the pronouncement of death, the transplant team will then proceed with the recovery of organs for transplant.

The following organs may be recovered for transplant:

  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Lungs

Organ donation after cardiac death is not a new way to recover organs for transplant. In fact, the first transplants ever performed were from patientís whose hearts had stopped beating.

Questions about DCD:

When the organs are removed, is the patient dead?

Yes. Organs are never recovered from a patient until they are declared dead by a physician not affiliated with transplantation or procurement.

May I be with my loved one when they die?

Usually the family can stay with their loved one during the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies. The Alabama Organ Center and the hospital will work with the family to ensure that their needs are met.

Will my loved one feel any pain during the organ recovery?

No. When organs are recovered after cardiac (heart) death or brain death the patient does not feel any pain. After a patient dies, they no longer feel pain.