Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Brain death is a legal definition of death that emerged in the 1960s as a response to the ability to resuscitate individuals and mechanically keep the heart and lungs working. Dr. Ed Hill discusses brain death in today’s 60 Second Housecall.
A person dies when brain function ceases, the heart stops beating and breathing and blood circulation cease. Because life-support techniques have become so advanced, it is possible that the heart can be kept beating with medication and respiration can be artificially performed with a ventilator.
The concept of brain death developed in response to these advanced medical techniques that can maintain some bodily functions. Brain death occurs when there is no function of the entire brain.
Criteria for brain death include:
· No response to any stimulus—no movement, withdrawal, grimace or blinking
· No breathing efforts when taken off the ventilator
· Pupils dilated and not responsive to light
· No gag reflex, no corneal reflex and absence of other specific reflexes
Some organs, such as the heart, can only be transplanted if they are harvested from a dead person whose respiration and circulation are artificially maintained. Organ harvest takes place only after declaration of brain death. The organ donation team is not involved until the patient is declared brain dead.
For North Mississippi Medical Center, I’m Dr. Ed Hill.