If The Brain Is Dead, Are You?


A person diagnosed as “brain dead” is sustained on a ventilator. Is this person dying or dead?

On my blog, I referred to the patient as dying. A reader corrected me. He said that, in fact, the patient was dead.

The reader was Reg Green, father of Nicholas, a 7-year-old shot and killed by bandits in a case of mistaken identity during the family’s Italian vacation. 
Nicholas’ organs were transplanted into seven Italians, and transformed a country’s attitudes about organ donation.

Green told this story in “The Nicholas Effect,” which became a TV movie (“Nicholas’ Gift”) with Alan Bates and Jamie Lee Curtis. In predominantly Catholic Italy, there was originally resistance to removing Nicholas’ life support without a legal process. Until, that is, the Greens argued for donating Nicholas’ organs. I interpreted this to mean that organ donation, in essence, justified allowing Nicholas to die. Continue reading
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