Organization feels distinction is crucial to end-of-life care
The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has issued a position statement calling on United States lawmakers to require and determine a uniform definition of brain death.
“The AAN believes that a specific, uniform standard for the determination of brain death is critically important to provide the highest quality patient-centered neurologic and end-of-life care,” said James Russell, DO, author of the statement and chair of the AAN’s Ethics, Law, and Humanities Committee.
The statement was published last week in Neurology and has been endorsed by the American Neurological Association and the Child Neurology Society.
The brain death standards for adults and children that are currently accepted and used are the AANs 2010 Evidence-Based Guideline Update: Determining Brain Death in Adults and the 2011 Guidelines for the Determination of Brain Death in Infants and Children.
According to the AAN, brain death is defined as death due to irreversible loss of function of the entire brain—comparable to circulatory death, which is defined as irreversible loss of function of the circulatory system. Such a state, as determined by one or more medical professionals through application of accepted medical standards, is accepted as legal death in all US jurisdictions.
While no one was able to cite a case in which the current guidelines led to a false determination brain death, Nevada remains the only state to use these standards as an established medical standard.