Brief Fact Summary. The parents (Plaintiff) of an anencephalic child sought to have their child declared dead so that her organs could be donated.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. For purposes of organ donation, an anencephalic newborn is not “dead” solely because of its congenital deformity.
We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.View Full Point of Law
Issue. For purposes of organ donation, is an anencephalic newborn “dead” solely because of its congenital deformity?
Held. (Kogan, J.)Â No.Â For purposes of organ donation, an anencephalic newborn is not “dead” solely because of its congenital deformity.Â Florida generally defines death as cardiopulmonary failure.Â An exception exists for whole-brain death when the heart is kept operable by artificial means.Â Here, the anencephalic infant does not fit either definition.Â Though she lacks an upper brain, the child’s heart will work for a short time, and some primordial brain function exists.Â While this policy issue is tremendously important, there is no sufficiently sound reason under the current law to extend the definition of death to include anencephaly.Â Because the newborn was not dead, donation of her organs would have been illegal.
Discussion. There is no hope that an anencephalic infant will survive.Â They are not conscious and most likely do not have any pain response.Â Because of the need for infant organs, it is difficult not to consider anencephalic infants as a source for these organs.Â In 1995, a medical council concluded that it was ethical to use organs from an anencephalic infant who was not dead yet so long as parental consent was obtained, along with other precautionary measures.