Monday, February 27, 2012

Nobody Declared Brain Dead Ever Wakes Up Feeling Pretty Good

The Atlantic | Richard C. Senelick MD
Adrian Niederha / Shutterstock
There's a difference between being in a coma and a vegetative state. The stories confusing the two are hindering organ donor education.

A day rarely goes by that I don't read a few sensational headlines: "Man Declared Dead Feels 'Pretty Good'" or "Husband Celebrates Miracle as 'Brain Dead' Wife Wakes Up in Hospital." I recently read an article that seemed to describe a man on death row in Huntsville, Texas. It attempted to shock its readers with the claim that a college student had been declared brain dead and "just hours before he was slated to be killed and his organs given to another patient," he miraculously recovered. That's right, they said "killed."

As a neurologist who specializes in brain injury, I have cared for many brain-injured patients and there were times when they did better than I anticipated, but sensational articles like these only confuse the public. During the health care legislation debates, the mere mention of insurance coverage for consultation on end-of-life decisions brought forth hysterical cries of "death panels" from people like Sarah Palin who exhorted that "my parents or my baby with Down's Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel'...." But if the headlines are fiction, what is the truth?
Read more "How our brain actually works":

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