Objective: Intensive care for organ preservation (ICOP) is defined as the initiation or pursuit of intensive care not to save the patient's life, but to protect and optimize organs for transplantation.
Analysis: When a patient has devastating brain injury that might progress to organ donation this can be conceptualized as evolving through four consecutive stages: (1) instability, (2) stability, (3) futility and (4) finality. ICOP might be applied at any of these stages, raising different ethical issues. Only in the stage of finality is the switch from neurointensive care to ICOP ethically justified.
Conclusion: The difference between the stages is that during instability, stability and futility the focus must be neurointensive care which seeks the patient's recovery or an accurate neurological prognostication, while finality focuses on withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy and commencement of comfort care, which may include ICOP for deceased donation.