Understanding Brain Death

What is 'brain death'? A British physician's view

The term 'brain death' came into common use amongst those working in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) some 40 years ago. It was not coined in any formal way as the name of a defined clinical syndrome. It was used in communication between ICU staff as a "shorthand" term to describe the state of patients who showed no sign of being able to breathe on their own after many days of mechanical ventilation, and whose coma appeared profound and deepening. When they lay inert and unresponsive, with circulatory instability and no external sign of brain function, they were often (and increasingly) described as 'brain dead'.

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