Hospitals don’t follow the same guidelines when it comes to declaring a person brain dead
(Mirror Daily, United States) – Brain death is something disputable and it looks like depending on the hospital you might be dead or not.
Brain death literally means that the brain of a person is dead and therefore no longer functional, even if other organs and parts of the body are still viable such as the heart. Usually, if scans show no electrical activity and oxygen no longer reaches the brain, the patient is declared brain death and the family is asked to donate the patients’ organs while they’re still viable.
Of course, families are having a hard time doing so and many insist on keeping their loved ones on artificial life support hoping they will someday wake up. And it has happened several times for people to wake up after being declared brain dead.
This is why the American Academy of Neurology has issued in 2010 new guidelines for determining brain deaths in hospitals. The guidelines were created to ensure that patients are declared dead only if there is really no hope of recovery.
Unfortunately five years after the guidelines were issued a study led by Greer, a neurologist at Yale University, and published in JAMA Neurology showed that these guidelines were not adopted by all hospitals.
Greer and his team of researchers have surveyed about 500 hospitals over a period of three years. They found out that in most hospitals the presence and expertise of a neurologist or neurosurgeon was not required in order to determine whether someone was brain dead or not. Moreover, in over half of the medical facilities the person making the call is not even the patient’s attending.
Also, hypotension and hypothermia, which are low blood pressure and low body temperature, respectively should be tested for, as they can be the reason for suppressed brain function. However, most hospitals don’t test for neither of them.
The problem is also that doctors fail to double-check. After seeing no brain activity and declaring the patient brain dead, they hurry to harvest organs and fail to repeat CTs or observe if the patients has reflexes or can move or breath on their own.
In conclusion, doctors should be more careful, pay more attention and stop giving up on their patients so soon. Hopefully, the findings of the study will encourage more hospitals to take the necessary measures and follow the guidelines issued by the American Academy of Neurology which could turn out to be real life-savers.
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