Many of us believe that death of an individual is when the individual’s heart stops or when they stop breathing. However, life support systems can keep the heart and lungs working even after the brain cease to function. Life support systems are mechanical means used to pump the heart and breathe for the patient who cannot do so on his own. If the brain cannot support these systems after the machines are unplugged, than the individual may be considered “clinically” brain dead.
Clinical brain death is the irreversible loss of the brain functions that are necessary to sustain life. When asked what the purpose was for keeping a patient on life support who was medically determined to be clinically brain dead, physicians state that often it is done in order to allow family members time to say their last goodbyes to their loved one, or it may be for the purpose of providing enough time to allow family member to determine if any of the patient’s organs will be donated. See Plain Views for more information on this subject.
The Difference Between a Comatose and a Clinically Brain Dead Patient
There is a big difference between being in a coma and being pronounced clinically brain dead. A coma is when a patient is considered to be in a continuing vegetative state; the brain is still functioning, but only in a reflexive, non-cognitive way. The comatose patient does not have the ability to think, nor are they aware of their surroundings, but their brain is not dead.
Brain death, on the other hand, is defined as an irreversible loss of all brain functions, including brainstem. A diagnosis of clinical death is considered “legal” death for all purposes. Keeping the organs alive, such as the heart and lungs, by mechanical means will not restore any brain function.
Medical Directives and Why They are Important
We never know if, by some unfortunate incident, we may end up in an intensive care unit (ICU), struggling for our lives. An auto accident or a bad slip and fall resulting in a severe enough brain injury may cause a tragic turn of events in our lives, and in the lives of our loved ones.
Depending upon how extensive the injuries are, what you want done for you with respect to any immediate or ongoing treatment should you become incapacitated to the extent you are no longer able to convey your wishes to your healthcare providers, can be arranged in advance. That is when a medical directive will speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself.
A medical directive is a simple document that tells your loved ones, your doctor and any medical staff, exactly what you want to happen with respect to resuscitation or life support. For more information on this subject, please consult with your attorney.
Individuals, who have suffered a brain injury, will need immediate medical care and treatment. Such treatment may include surgery and a long period of extensive rehabilitation. If the brain injury is a result of an accident, or the negligence of someone or something else, you may be dealing with that individual’s or that entity’s insurance company with respect to the payment of your medical bills. Insurance companies are there to provide a settlement that is more economical expedient to their insured.
Before negotiating any type of settlement for yourself, or on behalf of a loved one, you should consult with an experienced brain injury attorney. He will walk you through the process, and make sure your rights are protected. Please call the law offices of Levin & Perconti at (312) 332-2872 for a free consultation.