Monday, January 10, 2011
So when will you have died?
a person dies as long as he's living and lives as long as he's dying, or something like that, an easily remembered rule to follow I've heard a while back and always thought to be universally true.
But when is that point reached where a human has officially died?
The thing is, seperating live from death in our big and complex world doesn't quite work this easy.
Getting pronounced dead in England, for example, doesn't yet mean you have to be dead in Germany. Allthough if you get pronounced dead in Germany you could still be alive in Japan.
The reason behind this is that there are different perceptions (and therefore definitions) of what's really dead. So in England you may already have officially died when only a specific part of your brain stopped working. In Germany that's not sufficient – usually every function of your brain has to have stopped over here for you to be officially dead. In Japan death hasn't officially kicked in until your heart stopped working aswell.
"Dead means dead" - another pretty simple formular which stopped working in the sixtys when intensive care opened up new possibilities which altered our perception of live and death forever. Suddenly people whose hearts stopped beating and lungs stopped breathing could be reanimated – two sure indications of death until this point. Of course only a few of those patients fully recovered. Many stayed in a coma and had to be artificially fed and respirated because the temporary lack of oxigen damaged their brains.
Doctors all over the world soon asked for definite criteria regarding what's life and what's death, or more importantly at what point they would be allowed to stop the costly life-sustaining measures.
And it was 1968 that the Harvard Medical School came up with some criteria; they basically defined brain dead – man dead. Many countrys started to adopt this definition, others did not and yet others, such as Germany, don't have a real definition till this present day. But even in countrys where brain death equals human death there are lots of discussions going on – critics say a person shouldn't be deemed dead when their body is still warm, their heart still beating and their digestion is still working without flaws. In their eyes, a braindead person is dying, but not dead yet (now and if that's still a life worth living is another story).
And even within the lines of the supporters there are different oppinions – are you officially braindead when your brainstem stopped working? Or does every single bit of brain activity have to have stopped? What exactly is even measurable with our current technology...?
Most of this info is blatantly stolen from the article "Wann ist der Mensch tot?" by Martina Keller. I grabbed it at a continued education seminar I went to recently and think it's a really interesting read.
Do you guys and girls care about this stuff? The article is pretty long and goes on about measures to prove brain death and the problems with donor organs being removed too late because death hasn't officially kicked in yet. I may be tempted to steal some more in order to fulfill my Kind of Informational duty! Be sure to drop me a comment :)