Brain death research may get more to opt in to donate organs

An elderly patient with a nurse.
An elderly patient with a nurse.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Recent research has found that a machine-learning algorithm, applied to electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings, could differentiate a subset of brain-injured patients who had better chances of recovery from those for whom recovery is unlikely.

This seems to be a valuable direction of research for Singapore, where the Human Organ Transplant Act (Hota) makes diagnosis of brain death in many cases a critical and time-sensitive matter because of the need to ensure that donor organs are viable for transplantation.

Having a test like this not only helps identify the small number of patients who genuinely have a viable chance at recovery, but would also help families accept the finality of the brain-death status of a loved one.

That, in turn, might encourage some who currently opt out of Hota to change their minds.

Singapore's technological and medical expertise make it well placed to assist with this research, and I hope that our experts and research institutions can make contributing to the advancement and implementation of this technique a priority.

Loh Shan Ming

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2019, with the headline 'Brain death research may get more to opt in to donate organs'. Print Edition | Subscribe