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Thread: Why brain dead means really dead

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    Why brain dead means really dead

    I usually get in trouble in this section but I'll give it another shot.

    (CNN) -- A person who is brain dead may appear alive -- there may be a heartbeat, they may look like they're breathing, their skin may still be warm to the touch. But doctors say there is no life when brain activity ceases.

    Why brain dead is really dead - CNN.com


    I'm sure you've heard the story of the little girl from California who went in for minor tonsil surgery and due to complications was eventually declared "brain dead." A very sad event indeed but further complicating the tragedy is her parents don't seem to understand what brain dead means.

    About 10 years ago a elderly family friend experienced a similar fate. A blood clot in his leg traveled through his body, lodged in his lungs and his wife found him passed out on the floor. He'd apparently gone about 20 minutes with no oxygen getting to his brain, was on a ventilator at the hospital and declared brain dead. He looked like he was sleeping and would even toss and turn a little but according to the doctors his brain had died and absent a miracle he could not regain consciousness. From a medical science perspective, respirators and feeding tubes only keep organs alive although the person is in all other respects deceased.

    Its not a pleasant topic to discuss but Jahi McMath's passing, as tragic as it is, I think presents a teaching opportunity.
    Last edited by Smeagol; 01-07-14 at 11:13 AM.
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    Re: Why brain dead means really dead

    I am not sure what the girls parents are trying to achieve.

    Maybe they are waiting for brain transplants to become the norm.

    Miracles happen, but not that often, I am told.

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    Re: Why brain dead means really dead

    Quote Originally Posted by Mason66 View Post
    I am not sure what the girls parents are trying to achieve.

    Maybe they are waiting for brain transplants to become the norm.

    Miracles happen, but not that often, I am told.
    I honestly think they are terribly grief stricken, see their little girl "looking alive" but what appears to be asleep and even tossing and turning here and there. When I saw the guy from our church was in the hospital I couldn't believe he was "brain dead." I even think he yawned a few times or it might have been cough. A doctor friend of mine not involved in the case actually explained the medical science of it all to me and how minor movements happen spontaneously when a person is brain dead because of minor stem cell activity. Unless you understand the science behind it, its difficult to see a brain dead person on a ventilator as not being alive. Add to that the emotional component these loving parents are going through and I fully understand.
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    Re: Why brain dead means really dead

    Here's a case of someone who did recover from being brain dead but as it turned out the original diagnosis was wrong and he was only in a coma, which is not the same thing.



    Doctors told his family he would never recover and asked them to consider donating his organs before his life-support machine was turned off. Instead, Steven’s father enlisted the help of private GP Julia Piper to check his son again as doctors at University Hospital in Coventry, West Midlands, agreed to let a neurologist re-examine him. Remarkably, he detected faint brain waves indicating Steven had a slim chance of recovery and medics decided to attempt to bring him out of his coma.

    'Miracle recovery' of teen declared brain dead by four doctors - Telegraph
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    Re: Why brain dead means really dead

    Quote Originally Posted by Smeagol View Post
    I honestly think they are terribly grief stricken, see their little girl "looking alive" but what appears to be asleep and even tossing and turning here and there. When I saw the guy from our church was in the hospital I couldn't believe he was "brain dead." I even think he yawned a few times or it might have been cough. A doctor friend of mine not involved in the case actually explained the medical science of it all to me and how minor movements happen spontaneously when a person is brain dead because of minor stem cell activity. Unless you understand the science behind it, its difficult to see a brain dead person on a ventilator as not being alive. Add to that the emotional component these loving parents are going through and I fully understand.
    I understand that but there has to be somebody in the family that sees there is no coming back from this. It is going to be a lot harder down the road to stop the care that to do it right now.

    I can't even imaging the care that will have to be given to her for all of her bodily functions for as long as they want to keep her that way.

    Who is going to pay for the care? Does anybody know?

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    Re: Why brain dead means really dead

    Quote Originally Posted by Smeagol View Post
    Here's a case of someone who did recover from being brain dead but as it turned out the original diagnosis was wrong and he was only in a coma, which is not the same thing.



    Doctors told his family he would never recover and asked them to consider donating his organs before his life-support machine was turned off. Instead, Steven’s father enlisted the help of private GP Julia Piper to check his son again as doctors at University Hospital in Coventry, West Midlands, agreed to let a neurologist re-examine him. Remarkably, he detected faint brain waves indicating Steven had a slim chance of recovery and medics decided to attempt to bring him out of his coma.

    'Miracle recovery' of teen declared brain dead by four doctors - Telegraph
    I saw a medical ethicist on CNN who was asked specifically about people who've recovered from brain death. His comment was that there has never been a single documented case of a brain dead person recovering. There have been cases of misdiagnoses as in the case you cite but none where someone who's brain has stopped functioning has recovered.

    Once the brain stops working the person ceases to exist. All that's left is a shell. The heart may beat and there may be some movement but the person is gone and won't ever come back. I don't fault the parents. What parent wouldn't hold out a miracle? The people advising them are another matter.
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    Re: Why brain dead means really dead

    Quote Originally Posted by Smeagol View Post
    Here's a case of someone who did recover from being brain dead but as it turned out the original diagnosis was wrong and he was only in a coma, which is not the same thing.



    Doctors told his family he would never recover and asked them to consider donating his organs before his life-support machine was turned off. Instead, Steven’s father enlisted the help of private GP Julia Piper to check his son again as doctors at University Hospital in Coventry, West Midlands, agreed to let a neurologist re-examine him. Remarkably, he detected faint brain waves indicating Steven had a slim chance of recovery and medics decided to attempt to bring him out of his coma.

    'Miracle recovery' of teen declared brain dead by four doctors - Telegraph
    Well sure, but the problem is that the argument of "brain dead is really dead" doesn't account for bad diagnosis. The fact that the diagnosis could be wrong means that a brain dead diagnosis shouldn't be treated as really dead.

    Or in other words, brain dead isn't really dead because brain dead isn't even necessarily brain dead.
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    Re: Why brain dead means really dead

    These cases are terrible to deal with on many, many levels. This one sounds as though the family is simply in denial. From the circumstances of the case, who could blame them. The child went in for a tonsilectomy and is now dead, pretty shocking. The doctors and nurses should have been educating this family all along, but sometimes family members just dont hear. Very sad case.
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    Re: Why brain dead means really dead

    According to the video clip in the OP, the unlike a "persistent vegetative state" or even a coma, with brain death the body's organs eventually start to deteriorate so its apparently just a matter of time before not even a ventilator and feeding tube will help. How long, I don't know.

    I'm getting choked up for this family and don't even know them. No parent expects to take their kid to get a tonsillectomy, excited about all the popsicles and ice cream they've been promised and later that day have to pick up their death certificate and make funeral arrangements.
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    Re: Why brain dead means really dead

    Quote Originally Posted by jmotivator View Post
    Well sure, but the problem is that the argument of "brain dead is really dead" doesn't account for bad diagnosis. The fact that the diagnosis could be wrong means that a brain dead diagnosis shouldn't be treated as really dead.

    Or in other words, brain dead isn't really dead because brain dead isn't even necessarily brain dead.
    But how far do you go with that skepticism? At what point do you concede that the person is dead? And you have to keep in mind that the medical resources are finite and the resources you expend on the person who's declared brain dead but is being argued over aren't being used by someone who in all probability needs them more.
    Don't be a grammar nazi - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 1 #7

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