O'Connor First
Serving All OfNew York And Vermont
877-886-4029 Toll Free
518-465-0400 New York

Brain death hard to understand, even for doctors, p2

We are picking up our discussion of brain death. The subject has made headlines in the past few weeks as two very different cases played out in national media. Neither case involves patients or providers from New York.

We discussed them in our Jan. 21 post, but it makes sense to review the facts. In the first case, a pregnant woman had been declared brain dead, but the hospital refused to take her off life support; state law prohibits ending life support for pregnant patients. In the other case, the family of a teenager held out hope for her recovery after the hospital declared her brain dead.

The courts got involved in both cases. The teen's family was able to keep her alive long enough to move her to another facility. Her condition is unknown. The husband of the pregnant woman was present when the hospital took his wife off life support; both doctors and family members knew that the fetus would not survive, and tests had revealed some significant developmental problems.

Brain death is different from a coma or persistent vegetative state. According to the American Academy of Neurology, a person is brain dead when he or she loses all of the brain's clinical functions. The condition is irreversible; "life" is only possible with the use of technology.

In contrast, a coma or persistent vegetative state -- the terms are interchangeable -- is "a profound or deep state of unconsciousness," according to the National Institutes of Health. The patient is alive but cannot move and cannot respond to whatever is going on around him. While thinking abilities and awareness are compromised, the patient retains non-cognitive function, including breathing and blood circulation.

Assuming that doctors understand the difference, they have to be able to communicate clearly what the prognosis is. We'll talk more about that in our next post.


Modern Healthcare, "Not all docs clear on meaning of 'brain death'," Sabriya Rice, Jan. 14, 2014

CNN, "Brain-dead Texas woman taken off ventilator," Caleb Hellerman. Jason Morris and Matt Smith, Jan. 27, 2014

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Email Us For a Response

Speak To An Experienced Attorney.

High-Quality Representation At An Affordable Price. Contact Us Today.

Learn more about how we can help you by calling the firm at 877-886-4029.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

This site uses Google's Invisible reCAPTCHA, which is subject to Google's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

  • Best Lawyers | Best Law Firms | US News |2021
  • dri | The Voice of the Defense Bar
  • BEST'S Client Recommended 2019 | Insurance Attorneys
  • AV Preeminent
  • Bar Register Preeminent Lawyers
  • Lawyer of the Year
  • IADC
  • MPL
  • Best Lawyers
  • FDCC
  • Peer Rated
  • Plus
  • New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers
  • Lawyer of the Year
  • TIDA
  • Best Lawyers | Best Law Firms | US News |2019

20 Corporate Woods Boulevard
Albany, NY 12211

Toll Free: 877-886-4029
Phone: 518-465-0400
Fax: 518-465-0015
Albany Law Office Map

507 Main Street
Bennington, VT 05201

Toll Free: 877-886-4029
Fax: 518-465-0015
Map & Directions