Death of the brain is not the death of a human being
Today I read an article on Medscape by Charles Camosy entitled Death of the Brain is not the Death of a Human Being. I encourage you to read the entire post.
I have been saying this for the past two years and it is refreshing to be able to find a public post like this on a well-known web-site.
Excerpts from the article:
It has now become an article of faith in the medical community of the developed West that a patient has died when his or her brain is dead. But there is good reason to think that not all human organisms with dead brains are also dead as human organisms.
Consider that in many cases when first being cut open to harvest her organs, the “dead” patient reacts strongly to the incision — with heart rate and blood pressure increasing dramatically (at least until a general anesthetic is given). Some “dead” patients also have pituitary function after brain death, as well as functioning of the spinal cord, and both can help to integrate the human organism and help her achieve homeostasis.
Some scientists and medical professionals are beginning to realize that the current brain death criterion just doesn’t fit the science or their current practices. For instance, a recent Nature editorial argues that “the law should be changed to describe more accurately and honestly the way death is determined in clinical practice.” Nature quote.
Anatomically and physiologically during life there is an interdependence of organs and systems maintaining the unity (oneness) of the body. In an organism as complicated as a human being, no one should be pronounced dead unless and until there is destruction of at least the major vital systems of the body, i.e., the circulatory and respiratory systems, and the entire brain. Dr.Paul Byrne
In 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine printed an article that frankly argued that “brain death” is a sham. The article, co-authored by Dr. Robert D. Truog, a professor of medical ethics and anesthesia (pediatrics) in the Departments of Anesthesia and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the scientific literature does not support the criteria for ‘brain death’ and ‘cardiac death’ as being real death. “Although it may be ethical to remove vital organs from these patients, we believe that the reason it is ethical cannot convincingly be that the donors are dead.”
So open has the “brain death” secret become in medical circles that some are urging that such criteria simply be dropped. Dr. Neil Lazar, director of the medical-surgical intensive care unit at Toronto General Hospital, Dr. Maxwell J. Smith of the University of Toronto, and David Rodriguez-Arias of Universidad del Pais Vasco in Spain, admitted at a major conference that the pretense should be ended and that organs should be allowed to be removed from “dying” or “severely injured” patients.
This more “honest” approach, they said, would avoid the problems created by purely ideological definitions of death that are known to be mere pretexts to expand the organ donor pool.
The Ethical Question
Here is the bottom line and the questions you need to reconcile for yourself amid all the debate and controversy. Not only for yourself but if you are a parent you must explain to your children before they have a donor card signed.
1) What constitutes a human being to you?
2) Should one person die who is severely injured to give a potentially healthy life to some who will die without a transplant?
3) Do you feel that people signing up to be donors should be TOLD legal definition of death so they know they are not truly dead in the traditional understanding of death?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above questions, especially if you have been following my blog.