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Brain Death

Dr. Elliot writes a paper describing the British brain death criteria and compares it to other countries’ standards. Most brain death standards, such as the US’, use a ‘whole brain’ approach while the UK system recognizes ‘brain-stem’ death instead. The British define brain-stem death as the “irreversible loss of the capacity for consciousness, combined with irreversible loss of the capacity to breathe,” all functions attributed to the brain stem. The ‘whole brain’ approach widens the definition to greater brain function. Because both definitions are ultimately dependent on the brain-stem, many of the same tests are used to diagnose both definitions of brain death. Some countries require further confirmatory tests, such as EEG, for whole brain death. Since EEG measures higher brain functioning, it is excluded in the British definition. Disputes over the validity of minimal activity findings in EEG have called its use into question. Both ‘whole brain’ and ‘brain-stem,’ has gained widespread acceptance globally. There is room for greater standardization amongst bodies of criteria. Previous criteria required exclusion of illnesses that could mimic brain death; they apply here as well. Elliot relies heavily on Wijdick’s “Brain Death Worldwide” paper; for more information, please see this entry in our listing.

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