What Does Brain Dead Mean? Can Any Person Ever Recover From Brain Death?

The Issues of Brain Death

We frequently hear about this person or that person who has had a terrible accident resulting in brain injury, or who is suffering a debilitating disease that affects the brain, and they have been diagnosed as ‘brain dead’ and placed on artificial life support.

Sometimes the family of the person who is on artificial life support is unwilling to remove the life support because they believe that their loved one will somehow recover. But is that really even possible?

There is a lot of misinformation and a lot of controversy surrounding this issue of exactly what brain dead means and how accurate it is.

Where Life Support Usually Takes Place

People on artificial life support are usually place in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital.
People on artificial life support are usually place in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. | Source

When and Why Did Brain Dead Become a Cause of Death?

Initially, in 1968, it became legal to pronounce people brain dead if they met certain criteria. The main reason for making ‘brain dead’ a cause of death was that there was a huge backup of people who needed organ transplants -- there was a massive shortage of organs available for this procedure.

With medicine making great strides, more and more people were being kept alive that previously would have died. They were usually in intensive-care units and often unconscious with no hope they would regain consciousness. Their hearts were kept beating and oxygen continued to go to their organs thanks to artificial means, but many doctors thought of them as “living cadavers.”

Some medical experts argued that there were lots of viable organs going to waste. “Can society afford to discard the tissues and organs of the hopelessly unconscious patient when they could be used to restore the otherwise hopelessly ill, but still salvageable individual?” asked Henry Beecher, a Harvard Medical School Committee member.

Beecher wrote the report encouraging lawmakers to make ‘brain dead’ a legal death so that the organs of ‘hopelessly unconscious’ people could be harvested legally (Gary Greenberg for The New Yorker).

“If, on the other hand, brain-dead people were legally dead, then the [organ] supply problem was solved: transplant doctors could remove a still-beating heart (and a patient’s other organs) without committing murder,” (The New Yorker).

Brain dead is not the same as in coma, or as in a persistent vegetative state. Brain dead, by definition, means that all functions of the brain and brain stem have permanently stopped. Not temporarily stopped functioning, but permanently stopped functioning. Permanent means it is final and will not reverse itself. A brain dead person is legally dead in every state in the United States.

Artificial life support can keep the heart beating and the blood circulating and oxygen in the system, but it is limited. It cannot force blood to every cell in the body and those cells that do not receive sustenance die and begin to decompose. Even the brain will begin decomposing while still on artificial life support! (NBC News.com)

Life support is an artificial process and it cannot keep a person’s heart beating indefinitely. Brain death makes no allowance whatever for a human being to return to any semblance of life, much less even a slightly normal life. The reason that is so is because brain dead means dead. If the artificial life support is removed that person’s limited circulatory system will stop just as their brain stopped functioning hours or days or weeks before.

Examples of Brain Scans That Show the Difference Between a Functioning Brain and a Non Functioning Brain

The scan of a brain that is still functioning with electrical impulses being recorded, and the scan of a brain that is no longer functioning at all.
The scan of a brain that is still functioning with electrical impulses being recorded, and the scan of a brain that is no longer functioning at all. | Source

Purpose of Artificial Life Support

One of the main purposes of artificial life support is to keep a body in as good a condition as possible until the healthy organs can be harvested for transplant into another person. That is of course when a person or their family has agreed to donate the organs.

Once death occurs decomposition begins and surgeons must move quickly to harvest the organs.

The organs of a donor are removed while the heart is still beating with the assistance of artificial life support.

The donor is declared legally dead when all brain functions cease, not necessarily when the heart stops beating, because artificial life support can keep the heart beating long after the brain has ceased to function.

A lot of people are not aware that the life support of an organ donor is not removed until the organs have been removed (life.org.nz). This is the policy in every country around the world.

But There Have Been Exceptions . . .

“Patients declared dead have begun to breathe on their own after the machines were withdrawn; organ donors have shown signs of life, even as their organs were being removed; and, in at least one case, the harvest was aborted and the patient eventually went home, neurologically impaired, but decidedly alive. And there are cases, well known among transplant doctors and ethicists, in which people have taken home “dead bodies” that have gone on to live for long periods,” (The New Yorker).

While it would seem sensible to consider people diagnosed as brain dead to be truly dead, all things considered, there have been exceptions, and that can confuse the issues. Why the exceptions? Did the diagnosing doctor miss something? Was that doctor negligent or incompetent?

If any doctor has been mistaken, and we know that has happened, how can we be certain our own doctor has not overlooked something?

Choosing to put a loved one on artificial life support, or not, is not a small decision. Most of us depend on medical professionals to guide our decisions.

A living will where the person in question has made their wishes known can be extremely helpful. Some people are definite in their wish not to be kept alive by artificial means under any circumstances. That would preclude a doctor’s death pronouncement or the attachment of machines that will keep them alive indefinitely.

If artificial life support is required and the person has made it clear they do not want that under any circumstances then family and loved ones need not anguish over making a decision -- the decision has already been made by the patient. That can be a great relief to whoever would otherwise have to make that decision.

What If a Child Is Placed On Life Support?

Of course a living will does not resolve the issue where children are involved. Then one must think what they would want for themselves if they were on life support instead of that child. This is a decision that everyone would have to make for him or herself. I can think of no one who would envy any person in such a difficult position as to have to decide whether or not to remove life support from a child.

Is there even a small chance of survival? Or a possibility of any semblance of what passes for normalcy if the child miraculously survives? I keep saying survive instead of recover because most medical professionals would tell you there can be no recovery of the person who lives inside a brain dead body that is on artificial life support. Even if the body somehow survives, which is extremely rare, the person you previously knew will no longer exist. Their cognitive abilities will be greatly altered, which in turn will alter their personality.

Given that brain dead means legally dead even though the heartbeat and breathing of the body has not ceased, usually because of artificial life support keeping those functions continuing, a lot of people have trouble accepting that their loved one is really dead with no hope of reversal.

As I stated above, people have actually come back to where their physical bodies could exist for a while without life support, but they were not the same as they had been. Were they truly alive? Would anyone want to spend much of his or her life in that state?

There are a lot of things to think about regarding artificial life support and I hope my readers will share their thoughts on this controversial issue.

Sources

Life.org.nz

http://www.life.org.nz/euthanasia/euthanasiaethicalkeyissues/organ-harvesting/


NBC News

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/27611868/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/#.U55MjygQgUU


The New Yorker

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/01/lights-out-a-new-reckoning-for-brain-death.html


Brain Death Defined

http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/28/health/life-support-ethics/

© 2014 C E Clark

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Comments 63 comments

Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 months ago from North Texas Author

Moonlake, thank you for coming back. Your explanation was fine, and I think you echo the thoughts of a lot of people when it comes to donating organs and shutting off life support, etc. Even if there are not malicious intentions, even doctors sometimes make mistakes.

Hope all is well with you and that you're feeling at home and settled in. Take care . . .


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 months ago from America

I guess I didn't explain very well. They do leave life support on until organs are removed. We didn't want to sign organ donation because we were worried they would take organs without our permission once we signed papers. Turn off life support after that.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 months ago from North Texas Author

Moonlake, thank you for sharing your experience with me and my readers. I worry sometimes that some doctors may be more interested in the bottom line than being honest and doing what's best for the patient. Sometimes I think doctors have become worse than lawyers when it comes to getting the money.

If organs are donated, I don't think they shut the machines off until after the organs have been removed.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 months ago from North Texas Author

Moonlake, thank you for sharing your experience with me and my readers. I worry sometimes that some doctors may be more interested in the bottom line than being honest and doing what's best for the patient. Sometimes I think doctors have become worse than lawyers when it comes to getting the money.

If organs are donated, I don't think they shut the machines off until after the organs have been removed.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 months ago from America

We went though this with our son doctors pronounced him brain dead. They wanted us to let them remove all machines. We refused to let them remove machines. Doctors made a mistake he was not brain dead. We also refused to sign papers for organ donation. We thought if we signed those papers they would take the machines off without our permission.

It was a battle all the way to save his life. He is not a vegetable. Organ donation does stop a beating heart. Great hub.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 7 months ago from North Texas Author

Shyron, thank you for your high praise and for commenting on this article, and especially for the poem you wrote just for me. Discovered when I came here to respond that you had left a comment a few months ago and I never knew it! Don't know why I wasn't notified.

Thank you for all that you do. Hope you will stay safe if we get the predicted bad weather tomorrow. Blessings and hugs for you dear friend. Take care . . .


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 8 months ago

What does brain-dead mean

That we are locked inside our head

To fill a care giver with dread

Caring for us with words unsaid

Till they can unlock our crown

Where the essence of our being can be found

*

Blessings and hugs dear friend


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 11 months ago

Au fait, I came back to re-read this--so many times during my day, when I talk to people and someone says something to bring to mind one of your hubs and I must come home and read it, this is one of those times.

Excellent hub.

Happy New Year and Blessings and Hugs.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 16 months ago from North Texas Author

Nadine May, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this difficult but important issue. Many people have trouble accepting their loved one is dead because the machine keeps their blood circulating and people confuse that with a heartbeat.

In fact I wrote about the rare exceptions of people who have in fact awakened (or however one should characterize it) from brain death. It is extremely rare and the people who do so are never anything near the person they were before. I would call them the living dead.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 16 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Thanks for this great article on a very emotional topic. We are following a series on the TV where a major character is declared Brain dead. ( he is probably written out of the script) Its a powerful drama because one family member does not want to give up or say goodby. Yes its true that by definition Brain dead means all functions of the brain and brain stem have stopped, but there have been exceptions. That is why 'pulling the plug' must be so very difficult, especially if it involves a child.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 17 months ago from North Texas Author

Patricia (pstraubie48), thank you for coming by. Yes, it can be a very difficult decision and difficult to live with no matter what. Agree that people should have a living will so to take the awful responsibility of making such difficult decisions off their loved ones.

Thank you as always for the angels and I hope they are now surrounding you and your family also, keeping everyone safe. Take care . . .


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 17 months ago from sunny Florida

Au Fait Clearly this is a controversial and sensitive topic. Many would say they will take their loved one home regardless of the state they are in. O, my..it is kind of like 'be careful what you wish for.'

the person does recover and come home but no longer is the vibrant person they loved(Love) there. It can be a very sad end to the life of someone who would no doubt not wish to live that way.

That is one reason that end of life plans should be very specific.

In our family we have made our wishes clear and known to many.

Wonderfully covered Au Fait.

Angels are once again headed your way ps


Au fait profile image

Au fait 17 months ago from North Texas Author

Indian Chef, thank you for the votes. I'm glad you found this article informative.


Indian Chef profile image

Indian Chef 18 months ago from New Delhi India

Very Very Informative Blog. U reserched it so well. Given it interesting and rated it up.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

So true, Au fait. I do think about her and miss her lots.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 20 months ago from North Texas Author

Kristen, the passage of time helps, but there will always be an empty place where she used to be . . .


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Thanks Au Fait for your kind words. Last year was rough and this year's a bit smoother. It was an interesting read for sure. Sorry to hear about your mom as well.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 20 months ago from North Texas Author

Kristen Howe, thank you for reading and commenting on this article and for sharing your experience with this subject. I'm glad you found it interesting and I hope informative.

I'm so sorry to hear your mother died. I sympathize with you because I still miss my own mother after so many years ago when she died and I was still a teenager at the time.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Au Fait, this was a real interesting hub on brain death and the background of it. Before my mother passed away last spring, she had insignificant brain death from her heart attack and was on life support, until it was time to say goodbye, due to no improvement in her brain. Voted up for interesting and thanks for sharing!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 21 months ago from North Texas Author

FlourishAnyway, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this subject. Agree with what you say, and glad that you have taken steps to resolve the issue if it were to happen to you.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 21 months ago from USA

You draw an important distinction between survive and recover. I wouldn't want to come back, and I've taken the steps to let that be known. I hope it never happens to anyone I love.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 22 months ago from North Texas Author

Seraphic, thank you for reading this article and sharing your thoughts and experience on this subject. I know lots of people are confused about what exactly brain dead means and that was my reason for writing about it, hoping to clarify the subject as much as I can and hopefully before people really need to understand it so that they can deal with it better should they have the misfortune to find themselves in circumstances that require them to do so.


seraphic profile image

seraphic 22 months ago from Canada

This was a great Hub! Your Hub caught my eye as I have been following the story of Bobbi Kristina Brown (daughter of the late Whitney Houston). Today doctors have allegedly told family members that there's little they can do to save her life, she has died literally the same way her mother has. From reading I know that she is on a ventilator, so it is just a matter of time before the family decides to shut it off as brain death sounds like it has occurred.

My grandmother had a brain aneurysm, we kept her alive until all the family could say good-bye. This is the hardest thing to do for anyone.

Thank-you for your research and compiling this information as it is incredibly useful to us all, it provided clarity.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 22 months ago from North Texas Author

Kiss and Tales, thank you for your kind words. I know how hard it is to lose someone you love and how it's a little better if one can see how in fact you keep them with you in your heart always.


Kiss andTales profile image

Kiss andTales 22 months ago

Thank you ! you are a sweet person to ecpress such a kind thought and I appreciate you very much!

I am looking to see your next hubs kerp up your wonderful work Aufait!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 22 months ago from North Texas Author

Kiss and Tales, I'm so sorry to hear your brother passed on. Refusing dialysis is very dangerous. The best thing now is to remember all the good things and celebrate your brother's life and the good times you had with him.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 22 months ago from North Texas Author

Patricia (pstraubie48), thank you for reading and commenting on this article. It would be a tough position to be in if it were one's parent, spouse, or especially one's child. I think it's important to know the physical facts because in fact people on life support with no chance of recovery (most), already begin to decay the first week.

Thank you for the votes, tweet, G+ing, and share!


Kiss andTales profile image

Kiss andTales 22 months ago

Thank you Au fait for another important hub! I really experience this with my brother 8 months ago ! Interesting that his eyes lids would twitch ,mouth would move. But the specialist said there was no positive signs of normal brain activity,he was 52, he was also was supposed to be on Dyalasis for his kidneys ,he refuse to comply which I think caused his real death.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 22 months ago from sunny Florida

O my...who wants to be in a position to make the 'call'?

This brings to mind many questions...I had no idea that someone was giving organs and then the donation aborted and the person went home. That certainly gives new definition to 'living on borrowed time'.

So much to think about here, Aufait

Voted up ++++ shared g+ tweeted


Au fait profile image

Au fait 23 months ago from North Texas Author

Larry Rankin, thank you for taking time to read this article and leave a comment! Very much appreciate your compliments also.

You are correct regarding brain death, but a lot of people seem to be confused about it and keep their loved ones on life support long beyond when they have already begun to deteriorate. Life support slows decomposition down, but it can't stop it. If people understood their loved one is actually dead it might be easier to disconnect the machines.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 23 months ago from Oklahoma

Very interesting and excellently written.

It would seem that brain death is pretty straight forward and dire, with few exceptions, whereas coma and other non-responsive states still allow for a bit of hope.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Peggy W, thank you for Tweeting this article! Agree totally that a living will can solve a lot of problems for oneself and one's family.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

DeborahDian, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this issue. People very rarely wake up after being diagnosed as brain dead. It happens, but ever so seldom. Those people who have 'awakened' from a brain dead state were not the same people in any respect, except maybe appearance. Their personalities and dispositions were different, and of course their abilities and intelligence had greatly changed.

Personally, I would not want to live the way people who have survived something like this are forced to live as a result of their disabilities. That's just me, but I think life is hard enough without additional handicaps. Everyone must make that decision for themselves, ideally while still of sound mind through the vehicle of a living will.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

I am going to share this again by tweeting and with followers here. People should really consider making their wishes known ahead of time and having the legal documents in place to back it up.


DeborahDian profile image

DeborahDian 2 years ago from Orange County, California

This was a fascinating article. I had no idea what it meant to be declared brain dead until I read your article. That was scary that people have awaken from being declared brain dead.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Jay, sorry to take so long to get back, and thank you for coming by and reading this article! Very much appreciate your doing that and your leaving such high praise.

During the week I work and I have very little time on the computer for any reason, so HubPages has to manage without me 'til the weekend most of the time. No one has my cell # except my daughter, and I'm not allowed to answer it when I'm working anyway.

Shyron has been in contact to say all went well with her husband and he's home resting since about noon yesterday (Friday). I imagine she has been in contact with you since then too, so I doubt I know anything you don't already know. You can always find her here on HP just by putting Shyron E Shenko in the search box at the top of every page if you don't have any other means of contact.

Again, so glad you were able to stop by and read and comment on this article!


J.J. 2 years ago

Hi au fait - I sent Shyron a msg. She is at the hospital right now, she said you are her close friend, thought I would find out if you heard from her.

By the way this is an excellent article.

Jay

I don't know your cell number and I knew this would be the easier way to contact you.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

DreamerMeg, thank you for reading and commenting on this article. So glad you learned some useful information. Yes one should include their wishes to donate their organs in their living will. I believe a person can also indicate his/her wishes to do that on their driver's license if they have one.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Mary615, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I think having a living will is one of the kindest things a person can do for their family who might otherwise be placed in the unfortunate position of having to make those decisions for you and then wonder if they did the right thing.

Thank you so much for the votes and the share as well.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Sherry Hewins, thank you for sharing your experience on this issue. I think most people end up on it because of something traumatic that has just happened, even if it's an unexpected situation that developed in surgery. It is always the decision to end the life support that is difficult.

I'm glad to know that the doctors in the situations you talked about went to so much trouble to be certain. If all doctors did that maybe there would be less anguish in the decision to end the artificial support.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Arun Kanti, thank you for commenting on this article! Yes, people have occasionally been pronounced dead over the years only to wake up at the undertaker's. Before the 3-day waiting period, at least in this country, some people were discovered to have tried to claw their way out of their graves, apparently alive when buried. The 3-day wait was instituted because it was believed that most people would 'wake up' within that period of time if in fact they appeared dead but were not.

Brain dead is a bit different. There are tests performed to determine if any part of the brain is functioning. It is more than just testing for a pulse or temperature. Even then, mistakes are made, but rarely.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Shyron, thank you for the votes and the share. There definitely is a difference between dead and pronounced dead. I would say that is unfortunate, because it can cause a lot of anguish for loved ones and not turn out so well for the patient sometimes either, but on the other hand, there are probably people somewhere who are glad the pronouncement of death was misdiagnosed and things may have turned out much better than expected.

I suppose much is determined by whether or not someone was allowed to die who really wasn't dead when pronounced as such, but do we ever know for sure when that happens?


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Peggy W, thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts on this issue. Also for the votes and shares, etc. They are very much appreciated.

I think having a living will such as you talk about in one of your articles is one of the nicest, kindest things a person can leave behind to their heirs. It takes most if not all of the hard medical decisions out of their hands so that they need never wonder if they did what you would have wanted, or if they did the right thing. What a burden to lift from their shoulders!

I would not want to be kept alive by artificial means either. No heroics of any kind for me. When I'm gone, leave me be. I wouldn't want to come back handicapped as it's most often paralysis and/or mental limitations that one must live with thereafter being a burden to themselves as well as to others.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

PegCole17, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience with this subject. I really think a lot of people have a hard time understanding that a machine inflating the lungs and forcing the heart to beat is not the same thing as a person's body doing those things itself. As I pointed out, people on life support for very long start to decay if they really aren't alive.

The harvesting of organs should be coming to an end before many more years pass, since the advent of the 3-D Printers that are getting better and better at printing out new organs made from the cells of the recipient to be will make new organs unlikely to be rejected, and readily available. No donors required.

Careful diagnosis is extremely important, and as with most vocations, not everyone is as dedicated to doing their job well as they should be.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

The Examiner-1, thanks for stopping by!


DreamerMeg profile image

DreamerMeg 2 years ago from Northern Ireland

Very interesting, but it means then, that if a person does not want to be kept alive artificially but they are willing for their organs to be harvested, that they would have to put this into their living will, something on the lines of, "don't keep me alive artificially, except to allow my organs to be harvested for a transplant". You have made the distinction between "brain dead" and "coma" very clear, thanks. I had not realised this distinction before.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Suzettenaples, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this difficult subject. I agree with what you say, and would add that for many people, if a person is still breathing, they believe there is hope. They may not understand that the person really isn't breathing, it is the artificial machine that is breathing.

A living will can take the difficult decision out of the hands of family and give a person a voice even when they cannot speak. It is often the best for oneself and ones own wishes and the kindest thing one can do for one's family.

Hope you are enjoying one of your beautiful gardens today!


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

My personal wishes about this subject is known to my family, and I have a Living Will in place. I would not want to live on brain dead. I would rather my organs be harvested to use for others.

I'm sure it's a terribly decision for a family member to make, and that's why I have made my advance decision, to relieve my family the concern. Excellent Hub, Voted UP, and shared.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Shyron, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this issue, and for the votes and share. Appreciate the blessings also, and hope the same for you.

I think the problem with the phrase brain dead beyond its misunderstanding by so many people is that diagnosis is not necessarily done as carefully as it should be.

I would hope that everyone would realize that not everyone is equal. Yes, under the law they are supposed to be, but in fact, some people are more intelligent or more skilled in certain areas than others. That is true in all things.

Some doctors take more interest in their patients than others, some paid closer attention in medical school than others, some are more conscientious than others, and on and on it goes. So long as doctors are human or programmed by humans (in the even artificial life is turned into doctors at some point in the future), there will be misdiagnoses and medical mistakes. That is, I believe, the reason many people, in large part, distrust the diagnosis of 'brain dead.'


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 2 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

I have know a few people who were diagnosed as brain dead after severe head trauma. In those cases, there was no decision to put them on life support, it was done during an emergency to try to save their lives. The families had to decide to take them off when it became clear that there was no hope.

The doctors tested and retested, checked and double checked, they did everything they could to insure that they were making the correct diagnosis.


ARUN KANTI profile image

ARUN KANTI 2 years ago from KOLKATA

We have occasionally seen reports in newspapers and periodicals how a person declared dead and sent to the crematorium for funeral proceedings have suddenly come back to life. Thank you for the thought provoking hub.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

I had to re-read this after we talked this afternoon. When I said I don't believe anyone ever came back, I meant from being dead, not from being pronounced brain dead.

Voting this up again UAI and shared.

I hope you have a good night.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

My husband and I have everything in place to hopefully avoid such decisions in the future should they occur. I am a big believer in having one's wishes made known and properly executed ahead of time. As you pointed out when it comes to children, those decisions would be harder if there was any chance whatsoever of a misdiagnosis.

Personally, I would not wish to be kept artificially alive and if any part of my body could help others have a better life, it would be my wish to make it happen.

Up votes and sharing all across.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Hankscita, thank you for stopping by!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This article inspired me to read several more articles on the subject, Au fait. Thanks for this stimulus and for your interesting presentation on this controversial topic.

I can certainly see where this may lead in the future with the questionable practices of determining categories of death and the use of increasingly sophisticated medical technology to sustain life functions. The topic of the profitability of organ transplantation factors into the equation when it comes to life sustaining issues, other than as you have explained, the category of total non-functional brain stem activity.

Issues like these which are charged with emotion will mark the future of our civilization as we progress.

My Dad's niece, my cousin, was found in a state of unconsciousness and was diagnosed as brain dead. The circumstances surrounding her coma were somewhat questionable and despite the wishes expressed in her Advanced Directives or Living Will, she was kept on life support for weeks following her diagnosis. We may never discover the true account of what happened to her. I have my suspicions but without evidence, it is a moot point.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Billybuc, thank you for commenting! You do realize that brain dead people, even on life support, begin to decay because they really are dead?

I don't think you are being selfish. I think you just don't want to take the chance that something was missed in the diagnosis and that the person in question really isn't dead by any definition. Just hearing about one person who recovers, and some have, is enough to put doubt in many people's minds when it comes to pulling the plug. Like you, I hope never to be in a position to have to make that decision.


The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 2 years ago

There have been occasional cases of recovery. The families are prepared to turn off the machines and donate the organs and the patients have suddenly recovered. It is not often, but it has happened.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

Well written and well researched. I think people who do not end the life support when there is brain death want to hold on to any hope that their loved one will recover. As you said, there have been exceptions, but they are few and far between. People tend to cling to that type of hope when the end comes to the one they love. I have never been faced with this decision and I hope I never am. I don't know what I would do. I would like to think I would do the intelligent and rational thing to do, but sometimes the emotions take over. Very thought provoking article.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Ericdierker, thank you stopping by and and sharing your thoughts!


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

I don’t think that a person who is brain dead can return to any kind of normalcy, no matter what anyone says.

You come up with the most interesting stories.

I hope I never have to face having to tell the hospital or doctor to pull the plug on someone I love.

Thumbs up, UAI and shared.

Have a Blessed evening

Shyron


Hankscita profile image

Hankscita 2 years ago from Florida

Would anyone want to spend much of his or her life in that state? Not me! Great Hub


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Controversial for sure. I hope I never have to face this issue with a loved one, because honestly I don't know if I'd be able to "pull the plug" and give up. Having said that, I know that is, at least in part, a selfish reaction.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Very interesting you did a great job with this. I believe in an eternal soul so body death is not that huge of a deal to me ---- though I really hate knowing of sensless death.

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