open access

Vol 48, No 2 (2016)
Review articles
Published online: 2016-03-14
Submitted: 2015-07-30
Accepted: 2015-10-12
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Brain death criteria formulated for transplantation purposes: fact or myth?

Krzysztof Pabisiak
DOI: 10.5603/AIT.a2016.0015
·
Anaesthesiol Intensive Ther 2016;48(2):142-145.

open access

Vol 48, No 2 (2016)
Review articles
Published online: 2016-03-14
Submitted: 2015-07-30
Accepted: 2015-10-12

Abstract

Medical progress has moved the boundaries of life that were set many centuries ago. The development of medical techniques has allowed us to witness cases that were unknown prior to the introduction of reanimation procedures and mechanical ventilation. Towards the end of the 1950s, the term “irreversible coma” was coined, and has evolved into what is currently known as the “brain death” concept. This latter concept, proposed in 1968, is very often referred to as the new definition of death, even in medical circles. What, up until this time, used to be the classic definition of death, namely cessation of circulation and respiration, should now be recognized as the classic criteria for death. Indeed, the new criteria for recognizing death has not resulted in changing the current criteria, but in complementing them. The first part of this paper presents brief descriptions of death in the humanities over the centuries and the impact of progress in medicine on changes in how death is defined today. The second part brings to light the complexity of creating the foundations of the neurological criteria for death. The integration of concepts from two complementary medical fields — neurology and transplantology — is described. Although for some period of time they have been linked together, they may grow independently in the future. The jargon phrase “brain death” is nowadays recognized as synonym of death, but in fact should be considered tantamount to declaring pronouncing a person’s death.

Abstract

Medical progress has moved the boundaries of life that were set many centuries ago. The development of medical techniques has allowed us to witness cases that were unknown prior to the introduction of reanimation procedures and mechanical ventilation. Towards the end of the 1950s, the term “irreversible coma” was coined, and has evolved into what is currently known as the “brain death” concept. This latter concept, proposed in 1968, is very often referred to as the new definition of death, even in medical circles. What, up until this time, used to be the classic definition of death, namely cessation of circulation and respiration, should now be recognized as the classic criteria for death. Indeed, the new criteria for recognizing death has not resulted in changing the current criteria, but in complementing them. The first part of this paper presents brief descriptions of death in the humanities over the centuries and the impact of progress in medicine on changes in how death is defined today. The second part brings to light the complexity of creating the foundations of the neurological criteria for death. The integration of concepts from two complementary medical fields — neurology and transplantology — is described. Although for some period of time they have been linked together, they may grow independently in the future. The jargon phrase “brain death” is nowadays recognized as synonym of death, but in fact should be considered tantamount to declaring pronouncing a person’s death.

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Keywords

death, brain death, neurological criteria of death, organ donation

About this article
Title

Brain death criteria formulated for transplantation purposes: fact or myth?

Journal

Anaesthesiology Intensive Therapy

Issue

Vol 48, No 2 (2016)

Pages

142-145

Published online

2016-03-14

DOI

10.5603/AIT.a2016.0015

Bibliographic record

Anaesthesiol Intensive Ther 2016;48(2):142-145.

Keywords

death
brain death
neurological criteria of death
organ donation

Authors

Krzysztof Pabisiak

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