What is donation after cardiac death (DCD)?


A patient who has severe neurological injury, such as a stroke, bleeding into the brain, trauma, or suffocation, may be a DCD donor. With these kinds of injuries, the brain is too damaged to recover, but continues to have minimal function. However, the patient will not survive without ventilator support.

Once the hospital medical team determines the patient will not survive or have any meaningful improvement even with ongoing care, including ventilator support, a family may elect to discontinue or forego further medical intervention. This care decision includes withdrawal of ventilator support, allowing the death to occur naturally.  If the patient or their family desires organ donation, the ventilator support is withdrawn in or near the operating room in order to facilitate organ recovery as soon as possible after the declaration of death.