Sunday, June 4, 2017

"Brain Death" Is Not a Real Thing; Cardiorespiratory Death Is

"With all the modern technology that exists today, one would think that determination of death should be a straightforward matter," says Giuseppe Citerio, Professor of Anesthesia and Intensive Care at the Milano Bicocca University, School of Medicine and Surgery, Milan, Italy — International variation on definition of brain death must be cleared up to restore public confidence.

But it is not "a straightforward matter," and, the good (?) doctor notes, "Despite it being more than 40 years since the concept of 'brain death' was first introduced into clinical practice, many of the controversies that surround the determination of death by neurological criteria (DNC) have not been settled." He makes note of the "broad consensus, at least in the Western world, that human death is ultimately death of the brain, but debate continues over the way to demonstrate the ceasing of brain functions to satisfy a definition of DNC," but argues that until "determination of DNC [is] as easy and accepted as placing a stethoscope on a deceased patient's chest to search for a heartbeat and breath that will never come," it will not be "possible to achieve equivalence of DNC and cardiorespiratory death in the minds of the public and professionals."

Perhaps it is time to abandon this four-decade-old modernist non-scientific notion, as we have traditional one accepted across the millennia and across cultures, noted in this nine-year-old blog-post of mine:
    Hearts and Lungs, Not Brains

    "The Vatican City state does not use certification of brain death, an article in L'Osservatore Romano says, because this would tend to equate the human person with brain function" — Vatican questions brain death definition. The article notes that "[f]orty years ago a committee of the Harvard Medical School published a report recommending the adoption of brain death as the criterion for declaring a person dead," which in effect "meant the cessation of heart and lung function were no longer the only criteria for declaring someone dead."

    It is interesting that traditionally, both East and West, breath has been synonymous with spirit, as evidenced by the importance of breathing in Indic religions or the Greek word πνεύμα. And the heart has traditionally been seen as the seat of emotion and even consciousness, as evidenced by the ideogram 心 which can refer to both the organ and to the concept of mind.

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