Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, January 28, 2005

Premature Organ Harvesting

William Rardin decided to self-terminate in September of last year (2004).  His chosen method was a shotgun.  He mortally wounded himself and was taken to a hospital.  He was a registered organ donor and his organs were transplanted into several individuals.  The coronor ruled, however, that the cause of William's death was organ removal rather than the shotgun blast.  He claimed that sufficient tests to deem William dead had not been conducted.  Accordingly, he ruled the death a homicide.  After considerable controversy, the coronor reversed his initial determination and concluded that the cause of death was actually the self-inflicted gunshot wound.

This case shows how difficult it is to determine when organ harvesting should occur.  If done too soon, there is a risk that the donor is not really dead.  If not done soon enough, there is the risk of organ deterioration to the point that they would no longer be suitable for transplant.  It is a tough call to make an accurate conclusion that, "He's dead, Jim."

Special thanks to R.J. Schoettle for suggesting this case.


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