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Brain death policies vary among hospitals

According to a study published on Dec. 28 in JAMA Neurology, brain death policies vary widely from hospital to hospital in Arizona and nationwide. This is troubling because clear national guidelines on the requirements necessary for declaring a patient brain dead were issued by the American Academy of Neurology in 2010.

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine examined the brain death policies of 492 hospitals between June 2012 and June 2015. They found that only one-third of hospitals required that an expert in neurosurgery or neurology make a declaration of brain death. Meanwhile, 43 percent of hospitals allowed an attending physician to declare a patient brain dead, which violates the AAN guidelines. The lead author of the study noted that inexperienced doctors were more likely to make an error when determining brain death.

The study also found that there were discrepancies between the number of tests and length of waiting periods hospitals required to determine brain death. Around two-thirds of hospitals required only two tests to declare brain death, while 21 percent demanded more than two tests. Only 13 percent of hospitals required one test. Overall, researchers noted that hospitals are more closely aligned with AAN guidelines than in the past, but they said more needs to be done to ensure that brain death diagnoses are correct 100 percent of the time.

Families of patients who have been prematurely declared brain dead or who have died from other types of hospital negligence may wish to consider filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible physician and medical facility with the assistance of an attorney. If the claim is successfully proven in court, the victim's family could be awarded compensation for the losses that they have incurred.

Source: Counsel Heal, "Lack of Consistency Amongst Hospitals Regarding Brain Death Policies," Kanika Gupta, Dec. 31, 2015

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