Canadian parents of a dying baby said Tuesday they would take their two-month-old Kaylee off life support at a Toronto hospital in hopes her heart could be transplanted into another child in need.
But this act of generosity comes with risks, said doctors at the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.
Kaylee Wallace was born with a brain malformation that prevents her from breathing without a respirator, and she has severe kidney problems.
Her parents told reporters they offered to donate Kaylee's heart after hearing of another severely ill baby at the same hospital in need of a transplant.
"An extreme comfort will be that another child will survive hopefully," Kaylee's father Jason Wallace said.
But doctors cannot predict how long it will take Kaylee to die, and the longer she stays alive after being taken off a respirator, the more likely her heart could be damaged and thus become unusable as a donor organ.
"If legal death occurs, then we will remove the heart and proceed with transplantation," Doctor Jim Wright said. The heart must stop beating for five minutes before death can be declared, he said.
"If, however, the baby does not die, then the donation of the heart will not occur and the baby will return to the intensive care unit and the care of doctors."
For the parents of the one-month-old baby likely to receive the heart, an organ transplant also comes with usual risks.