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The science of brain death


Stashed in: Science!, Brain, Death

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The main things to know about brain death:

* In all 50 of the United States, brain death IS legally death. Like death certificate death. Like equal to "heart stops beating" death.

* There has never been a single recorded case of a person "coming back" from brain death. In all of human history.

* Coma is not brain death. Vegetative state is not brain death. Minimally conscious state is not brain death. Terry Schiavo was not brain dead.

* There is an EXTREMELY SPECIFIC multi-stage protocol that must be followed before the medical authorities call a brain death. It's not like TV where they look in your eyeballs with a pencil flashlight and then tell your mom "I'm sorry". Basically they see if you blink, gag, and take a breath at all. If you can do any of these, it means part of your brain stem is still functional and you are alive. More details at the link.

There's a powerful sadness to the words: "No one has ever come back."

Both of these stories bring to the forefront huge ethical dilemmas that we have not dealt with.  I was very surprised by how quick the Oakland hospital wanted to turn off life support on Jahi, I was always taught that life support is for the family (not the patient), and is there until they come to terms with the loss of their family member.  I feel the hospital might have started a position of posturing, to protect possibly from litigation, rather than sticking to a true medical model, and nurturing the family, and allowing them to process things at their own speed. 

  The other story is horrendous, to force a family to keep their loved one alive by life support, because of your own agenda, against their wishes, unbelievable!  

  Hopefully we will make progress on laying down some guidelines, so families don't have to ever suffer through these types of situations again.

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