A Heartbeat Away

Georgia lawmakers passed a strict law in 2019 outlawing most abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy. The law was blocked but now will likely take effect in Georgia and other red states.

If fetal cardiac activity defines the unborn fetus as a human with rights, then life of the fetus shall be protected from that moment forward. The unborn shall be considered as a living human with all rights accorded to him/her within the limits established by law.

The Uniform Determination of Death Act of 1981 to present declares, “An individual who has sustained either irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions or irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.”

This means, if the brain is dead, even while cardiac activity is present, life ceases. The ramification of the Uniform Determination of Death Act is profound in the procurement of organs for transplant. To procure healthy organs, the heart must be intact and beating. The heart is the last organ to be taken from the cadaver and will continue to beat, outside of the body for hours. The heart is functioning while it is being sewn into the new body.

The question I ask is if the detection of “fetal cardiac activity” at six weeks in utero is by law the determination of life, then how is the legal and medical term “brain dead” applicable in order to harvest human organs when the heart is still beating? Will an organ heart transplant be put under the same scrutiny as a woman’s fetus? The other organs for transplant are not viable if the heart has stopped beating.

There are over 100,000 people waiting for an organ transplant and a new person is put on the waitlist every 9 minutes. People are dying, a minimum of 17 daily, while waiting for an organ. If cardiac activity becomes the criteria for life, then there will be no more transplants other than living donor transplants. My husband would not be alive today without a heart transplant of a beating heart.


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