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Brain Death
What is Brain Death?

Brain death or technically referred as “brain stem death” is defined as irreversible loss of functions of brain i.e. end of all brain activity which is not reversible. Brain stem death usually results from massive irreversible brain injury, generally, after a major road traffic accident, head injury, or a bleed in the brain due to a stroke. Brain dead individuals qualify to become organ donors as per The Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994. A patient determined to be brain dead is legally and clinically dead where reflexes are absent and apnea (no breathing/unable to breathe). A brain dead person is dead and can never wake up.

What is the difference between Coma and Brain Death?
How does a brain dead person become organ donor?

Generally, victims of road traffic accidents and stroke are kept in an Intensive Care Unit and are connected to a ventilator as a part of life-saving intensive care treatment. Despite providing the best care, some of these patients cannot recover due to irreversible injury to the brain and are declared as brain dead. As they are connected to a ventilator, the heart of brain dead patients may continue to beat for about 2-3 days and the vital organs like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs will be functional due to blood/oxygen with the help of ventilator artificially. The family members are informed about the patient’s irreversible condition and the patient is declared brain dead.

Brain dead patient looks unconscious, is warm to touch, he/she appears to breathe due to the support of the ventilator. The family finds it difficult to understand the concept of brain death when this tragic situation is explained to them. If the family members consent to donate his/her organs, then this is called deceased organ donation. Once the organs are harvested, the body is handed over to the family members. These harvested organs are transplanted to the patients that are suffering from organ failure. This distribution of organs is done by the respective state government authorities as per the guidelines.

Process of Brain Death Declaration

According to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994, brain death has to be certified by four medical experts not connected to transplantation.

This is a type of deceased organ donation that happens once a person is declared brain death. When a person suffers severe brain injury and no longer has any activity in brain stem and has permanently lost the potential consciousness and capacity to breathe. The circulation continues with the support of artificial ventilation through a device called ventilator. Heart beating donations have a high success rate as the blood flow/oxygenation is continued to the vital organs till they are harvested for a transplant. Such a person can donate organs and tissues which can save other’s lives. However, this is only possible with the consent of the family members.

This panel of medical experts comprises of:

  1. Government certified doctor who is the in-charge of the hospital.
  2. Independent specialist nominated by the doctor who is in-charge of the hospital.
  3. A neurosurgeon nominated by the doctor who is in-charge of the hospital.
  4. Treating doctor of the deceased patient.