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Organs stored in chemicals or on ice last only a matter of hours. The far more desirable container: a brain-dead body.
The television in the dead man's room stays on all night. Right now the program is Shipmates, a reality-dating drama that's barely audible over the hiss of the ventilator. It's 4 am, and I've been here for six hours, sitting in the corner while three nurses fuss intermittently over a set of intravenous drips. They're worried about the dead man's health.
To me, he looks fine. His face is slack but flush, he breathes steadily, and his heart beats like a clock, despite the fact that his lungs have recently begun to leak fluid. The nurses roll the body from side to side periodically so that the liquid doesn't pool. At one point, a white plastic vest designed to clear the lungs inflates and begins to vibrate violently - as if some invisible person has seized the dead man by the shoulders and is trying to shake him awake. The rest of the time, the nurses consult monitors and watch for signs of cardiac...