This Box Can Bring Dead Hearts Back To Life

A new device that can preserve the hearts of the recently-deceased might help people in need of a transplant. However, the technology is raising ethical questions among some doctors regarding declaring a patient dead.

“A human organ has never been kept alive outside of a human body until this machine became a clinical reality,” Dr. Abbas Ardehali, the head of UCLA’s heart and lung transplant program, tells Chanelle Berlin Johnson for Al-Jazeera America. “It makes intuitive sense to a layperson to say, ‘Instead of having my heart on ice, I want it to be warm. I want it to be beating.'”

With the new device, hearts can be resuscitated and kept beating shortly after the moment of death. Additionally, keeping the heart warm and functioning could give doctors more time to transplant it, potentially increasing the number of eligible hearts by 15-30 percent, Toor writes.

“Cold is the old thing, and warm is the new thing,” Korkut Uygun, a transplant surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital tells Regalado. “Warm is the way to go with metabolically active tissue.”

However, the devices are expensive, costing about $250,000 each. And for some doctors, the prospect of reviving a dead heart brings serious ethical questions for determining when a heart should be saved in this manner.

The device could widen pool for heart transplants, but raises ethical questions