Bioethics Blogs

Is International Consensus on Brain Death Achievable?

Commenting on a new study in NEUROLOGY that shows a wide diversity of brain death practice, James Bernat asks “is international consensus on brain death achievable?”

Bernat observes: “Worldwide concurrence on death determination criteria can enhance public confidence in physicians’ ability to determine death by eliminating the possibility that patients declared dead in one jurisdiction would be considered alive in another. International harmonization also is a constructive step toward improving global systems of organ transplantation.”

But, Bernat notes, “formidable medical and societal barriers must be overcome before such consensus becomes possible.” 

In addition to other sources of variation results, Bernat notes “disagreement over the conceptual question of whether brain dead patients are truly dead or only “legally dead.” Surveys continue to show both widespread misunderstanding of the brain death concept and its rejection as equivalent to biological death by some health care professionals.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.