Brain Dead

Needed: Universal Protocols for Diagnosing Brain Deaths

Right now in the United States there is no universal policy for diagnosing a death by being considered brain dead. In hospitals today brain deaths are judged on a wide spectrum. This is troublesome because sometimes brain dead patients may be hastily misdiagnosed, or it may take a long time to diagnose. When the protocol to diagnose brain death takes a long time it takes time away from organ donation.

In 2010 the American Academy of Neurology wrote a clear set of standards to act as the basis for distinguishing brain dead patients from those who may emerge from a coma that may mimic brain dead activity.

Hospitals surveyed from 2012 – 2015 had not adopted the guidelines. Only 36% of hospitals have a system in place for checking core body temperature before declaring a person brain dead (hypothermic patients often show all signs of being brain dead, but can recover once their bodies are warmed). 32% require tests to rule out toxic drug interactions that may mimic the loss of primitive reflexes in the body.

The scientists agree, but those in the field have to put it into practice.


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Remember that this information is for educational purposes only. Seek the advice of a health specialist before making any changes to your healthcare.



LA Times “Criteria vary for diagnosing brain deaths” – Melissa Healy