Marlowe's Shade

Monday, April 25, 2005

Diagnosis of "Brain Death" May Claim Another Victim

From BlogsforTerri

This recent case of a family struggling with the institutional pressures to remove treatment from a son that has been classified as "brain dead" again raised the question of whether this catagorization of a patient is valid or a nonmedical loophole to deny expensive treatment. The BlogsforTerri post also links to a recent post on precisely this subject based on an article by Earl Appleby of CURE (Citizens United Resisting Euthanasia)

Whether you are classified as dead or alive depends upon your attending physician's understanding of the concept of death. The radical departure from the traditional cardiorespiratory standard of death inherent in "brain death" has, in Capron and Kass's words, brought "extramedical concepts to the forefront of concern." Moreover, "medical judgments," as Lamb reminds us "are informed by philosophical presuppositions, whether or not the latter are explicitly formulated." The following article explicates the "philosophical presuppositions" underlying the "extramedical concepts" of brain death as articulated by its proponents.

If as propagandist par excellence, Joseph Goebbels maintained, a lie repeated often enough is soon believed, the brainwashed public's blind faith in "brain death" is telling testimony to the pervasive power of the big lie. Regrettably, while the medical myth of brain death won't die, its victims do.

Brain death, a prominent proponent attests, is "a creation of prevailing medical technologies." Ironically, these "technologies" have nothing to do with the ability to determine death and everything to do with the ability to sustain life.

Dr Paul Bryne paints what I think is an even clearer medical picture:

Brain death is not about a definition of death, although it is often stated as a matter of definition. Rather, brain death vs. death is about the facts of death. If brain death and death were identical and equivalent, there would have been no need to coin "brain death."

One ought to begin with the known. Death is a fact. The concept of death can be defined, often from a theological or philosophical viewpoint. Medicine can have knowledge of the theological or philosophical concept, but the physician must make his determination of death based on the science (biology, biochemistry, etc.) that he knows.

The law should be for all. The purpose of the law should be for the protection of citizens. In the case of death the law should protect a citizen from being determined or pronounced dead before death, the fact, has occurred. This is not occurring in brain death.

These are facts of life. Anatomically and physiologically during life there is an interdependence of organs and systems maintaining the unity (oneness) of the body. In an organism as complicated as a human being, no one should be pronounced dead unless and until there is destruction of at least the major vital systems of the body, i.e., the circulatory and respiratory systems, and the entire brain.

Because of the desires of man to transplant vital organs, absence of brain functioning, functions or function was proposed and has been accepted by those who follow the leaders. Others have studied and realized that absence of brain functioning, functions or function is not identical and equivalent biologically or medically to death.

Furthermore, even though the Uniform Determination of Death Act calls for ". . . irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem," this is not what is occurring in practice. The Annals of the New York Academy of Science (ANYAS 9, 315, pg. 65, 1978) reported that only 4 percent of the patients in the Collaborative Study would have met the criteria of a dying brain stem. To say it another way, when the criteria based on the Collaborative Study became the practice and a standard for determining brain death, 96% of the patients did not and do not have a dying brain stem. While this is only one set of criteria, whether it or any other set of criteria based on the Collaborative Study is used, 96 percent of the so-called "brain-dead" patients still have a functioning brain. When the beating heart is then excised, the patient becomes dead, i.e., the patient is killed.

The acceptance of brain death is a major link in the euthanasia movement. Many of the difficult issues of euthanasia have been evaded by the acceptance of brain death (Willard Gaylin). "Brain death" is not death. Brain death is not based on data that would be considered valid for any other scientific purpose.

Brain death is not the truth, but someday the truth will have to be told.

So with this caveat not to rush to judgement as soon as a medical authority pronounces the pseudo-diagnosis of "brain death", lets look at Taran Francis' case as reported by Newsday:

An emergency hearing was held at a Bronx hospital Friday night after the family of a brain-dead boy alleged that the hospital had threatened to remove him from life support against their wishes.

The unusual hearing came after relatives of Teron Francis, 13, obtained a court order prohibiting Montefiore Medical Center from disconnecting his respirator.

About two dozen relatives stood outside the hospital, prevented by police from attending the closed hearing. A hospital spokesman said the hearing was being held in a small conference room, with only the judge, attorneys, doctors, the boy's mother, Marcerlyn Francis, and a stenographer in attendance.

Shortly after midnight the judge told about two dozen of the relatives assembled in the lobby that the hospital would not remove the boy from the respirator. He also told them that he would order an investigation into what happened to Teron.

"The judge said we won the case because they are not going to pull the plug on him," the boy's uncle, Fredrick Francis, 53, said. "Whenever his heart stops beating, that's when God is ready for him."

The uncle said the hospital told him that Teron has anywhere from an hour to two weeks to live.

Earlier Friday, Robert Genis, a lawyer for the family, went to State Supreme Court to get an order forcing the hospital to show why Teron's respirator should be removed.

"The hospital wants to cut him off now, even though we got a show cause order to continue his life support," Genis said before going into the 10:15 p.m. hearing.

A hospital spokesman, Steve Osborne, denied the attorney's allegations.

"We never threatened to turn off the respirator," he said. "It will be up to the mother, probably."

He said Teron is on a respirator but not life support. "The child is not on life support because he is brain dead and that's not a life condition.

"The judge ruled that we must make all efforts to make sure that we do whatever we can do to keep his heart functioning," Osborne said before the hearing. "The child is brain dead, but we are not going to take the child off the respirator."

Osborne accused Genis of "doing a disservice to the family" by misstating the hospital's intentions. As for the possibility of taking Teron off the respirator, Osborne said: "It's better to do it sooner than later because of the boy's condition. When you're brain dead, your organs just fade away slowly."

Teron's complications began Monday after he was taken to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital complaining of a severe headache and toothache. The family said doctors conducted a CAT-scan and told relatives that an infection had spread to his brain.

After he went into convulsions and became unconscious, Teron was hooked up to a respirator and transferred to Montefiore for surgery on Tuesday, his family said. "Something went terribly wrong because my brother was always conscious in the hospital," said Teron's brother, Erron Francis, 24. "On Wednesday, they were calling us asking us about donating organs." [Ed. note: this report contains an incorrect spelling of Taran's name]

Later reports stated that Taran's condition was caused by a dental infection that spread to his brain. Steve Osbourne's thinly veiled concern that Taran's organs be harvested while the body is still healthy is shockly insensitive considering the family is still coming to terms with this terrible event.

I think this case is will be typical of how the right-to-die movement will impact all of us. The twin drivers of cost of treatment and demand for organs will hasten the deaths of thousands (in fact it already is), denying them the benefit of all available treatment options and legal due process, while having a devastating emotional impact on surviving family who love them. Taran may not recover from this infection, but it is clear that the right-to-die movement and the denial of treatment policies that it has instilled in our medical system are turning our hospitals into death factories. Sooner or later all of us will witness a loved one being efficiently processed toward a cost-effective death, as if moving swiftly along a conveyor belt long before we are ready to say goodbye.
papijoe 6:52 AM