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Brain Death and Life Support Essay

There have been a number of debates concerning when to declare a person dead. Death has been traditionally explained as the separation of the soul from the body. According to Ahronheim, Moreno and Zuckerman, the origin of this explanation was the understanding that the sign of life was the presence of breath (2005). Old cultures such as the Egyptian and Hebraic cultures perceived life as a spirit resident in a person’s body. However, there were new discoveries in the sixteenth century that changed the perception of death. The discoveries were that blood circulated in the body and in death, the blood stopped circulating. It is therefore important to understand actual signs of an absolute death so that incase a person undergoes brain death cannot be mistaken to have undergone complete death but should be supported by life supporting machine.  

Many patients in a coma generally have their lives supported by machines. Additionally, cases of brain death have usually been accompanied by cases of organ transplants. Despite the cases for the brain death being there, the controversy arises when the person is considered brain dead while other body parts are still functioning. Brain death has been defined as serious injury to the brain to the extent of rendering the brain non-functional hence unconscious. According to Byrne, there are some people that have brain injury that lead to permanent unconsciousness yet their other body parts function well (2005). Such people have lost their brain reflexes though they are still alive and they digest, metabolize food and excrete (Robert & Franklin, 2008). Prolonged unconsciousness is what is considered brain death. In many of such cases, the issue of brain death has raised a great deal of discussion. Brain death is not the main issue. The issue is when to declare a person as completely dead in order to conduct organ transplants. This issue has brought about lots of controversy with many people arguing that a person could be dead while his other body parts are functional. It is the controversy of the issue that led me to choose it for further research.

Recent findings indicate that it is possible that a person is brain dead while other body parts are still functioning. Many of these patients are supported by life supporting machines. Due to the permanent brain injury and unconsciousness, some people have argued that organ transplants can take place for such people since they are perceived to be dead. This study will investigate the issue of brain death and the life supporting machines. It seeks to establish that brain death is not the total death of a person and therefore life supporting machines should not be removed from the person until all other body parts not functioning totally. This debate is important especially in some special cases such as those of heart lung transplants where oxygenation of the organs should be maintained prior to the transplant. Although it may be perfectly ethical to remove vital organs for transplantation from patients who satisfy the diagnostic criteria of brain death, the reason it is ethical cannot be that we are convinced they are really dead (2008). Life supporting machines should continue supporting the patient until the time that the patient is dead with the brain and all other body parts not functioning.

This study examines this issue of brain death, reasons why a brain dead person could still not be dead, life support and the application of life support machines to brain dead patients. The study will seek to fulfill the hypothesis that life support machines should not be withdrawn from a brain dead person until it is confirmed that the person is totally dead with his brain and body parts not functioning at all. The researcher will conduct a survey to find out the determination of brain death, when to conduct organ transplant and when to remove life supporting machines.

The study will utilize secondary sources of data and primary sources. Secondary sources of data will be obtained from books and journal articles in addition to published and unpublished sources in the library of hospitals. Primary data will be collected from patients and doctors in different hospitals concerning the brain dead and life support.