Comment: The families of organ donors are usually deprived of the opportunity to be present when the donor’s heart stops beating. As this personal account by van Os eloquently demonstrates,1 forsaking this opportunity can be experienced as an additional loss — one that exacerbates a family’s trauma during the donation process and that possibly imperils the donation itself. We should not underestimate the cultural significance of heartbeat and breath, and the symbolic importance of the moment in which they cease. Neither is diminished by medical redefinitions of death.
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