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Natl Med J India. 1997 May-Jun;10(3):120-5.

Brain death and organ donation.

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Department of Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India.


Brain death is the irreversible cessation of all brain functions. Brainstem death is the 'physiological core' of brain death. The Indian Parliament has given legal recognition to brain death though it applies only in the context of performance of organ transplantation. Brain death is diagnosed if there is irreversible loss of consciousness, absence of brainstem reflexes and apnoea. Care and diligence in the application of the criteria for brain death provide important safeguards for Individual patients and the community in general. These criteria also allow death to be diagnosed with certainty prior to the occurrence of circulatory arrest. Solid organ transplantation has become possible through the diagnosis of brain death but is not the primary consideration; the management of a potential organ donor, who is brain dead, is also vital. If optimal preservation of organs for transplantation is to be achieved the clinician needs to understand the pathophysiology and consequences of changes occurring in various organs after brain death and active management is required to reverse or control these changes. Discussions about organ donation with relatives of brain deed patients are never easy. These should always be frank and sympathetic. It has been suggested that those whose interests lie in transplantation must bear the responsibility of educating the general public. This will help intensivists who expose themselves knowingly to the unpleasant aspects of organ donation.

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