An anencephalic infant has been born in the hospital. It is evident to medically aware community that no anencephalic baby would live for long as this is a condition when the baby is born without a considerable portion of scalp, skull and brain. This condition is caused by the cephalic head end of the neural tube failing to close during pregnancy. But this child was born with a small stem of brain. Hence, she could not be declared brain dead legally. The law of this state does not permit declaring a person brain dead, if the person had even a partly functioning brain. The infant was kept on ventilator as at that time the metabolic functions of her body were working to an extent. The doctors could convince the parents of the child about the non retrievable condition of the baby and they agreed to donate her heart for the treatment of an infant who had a critical heart condition. That infant too was admitted in this hospital. The issue of legal compliance remained. Waiting for this problem to be resolved, could have a consequence of loosing an opportunity to save the life of the second infant as well.
It was in this painful dilemma that I found myself. There was also the tissue type matching to be done to find out whether the second infant’s body would accept the heart from the body of the first infant. Tissue type matching could be carried out successfully only if tissues are retrieved from the donor within 24 hours of the stopping of heart beat. So, waiting for the heart to cease beating naturally would reduce the chances of conducting a successful tissue type matching.
Though the parents of the child were supportive of the decision that I wanted to take, some relatives had a different opinion owing to some religious considerations. According to their religion, death can be accepted only when the heart beat stops, they said. But as John Stuart Mill (2007, pp.78) has rightly put, I believe that, “the sentiment of justice appears to me to be, the animal