About My Health Careers Internship MedBlogs Contact us

Does Brain Death Means the End of Life?

by Hannah Punitha on November 8, 2008 at 5:00 PM
Font : A-A+

Does Brain Death Means the End of Life?

"The legal issue is this: The parents of the brain dead boy are deeply religious people and in their religious belief a person is dead when their heart and lungs stop,"

Doctors at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington want to end treatment for Motl Brody, 12, whom they declared deceased Wednesday after brain cancer left him with no brain activity, the hospital's lawyer Kenneth Rosenau told AFP.


But Brody's conservative Jewish parents, saying their religion does not define death in that way, are fighting to keep Motl on life-sustaining equipment in the hospital's intensive care unit, their lawyer Jeffrey Zuckerman said.

"And if a person is not dead, there is a religious obligation to give that person medical treatment. Their son is alive as long as his heart is beating, his lungs are breathing," Zuckerman said.

The Brodys, from Brooklyn, New York, live by the Jewish Halakha principles, which define death as "irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions," according to the family's court filings in the case.

In the United States, the individual states set their own definitions of what constitutes "dead." In Washington, the cessation of brain functions is the basis of a death ruling, while in New York, the criteria is whether the heart continues to function.

The hospital, however, sought the court's support to order the boy's life-support equipment be cut off and to stop giving him treatment that stimulates his heart.

The case will be heard starting Monday in a local court in the US capital.

Zuckerman called the hospital's move to seek court support to authorize removing the boy's life support equipment "unprecedented."

"We have not found any other case in any other hospital in the US," he said.

"The first thing for doctors is, do no harm. And here they are proposing literally to pull the plug and discontinue medicine for this boy."

Motl, the third of seven children for the Brodys, fell ill six months ago and underwent an operation for a cancerous tumor in his brain. But afterwards his condition worsened.

One of his uncles told the Washington Post that the little boy was very religious and wanted to become a rabbi. He wrote poems in Hebrew and was impatiently waiting for his Bar Mitzvah.

The court case raises issues of religious freedom in the United States, though. Zuckerman points out that federal law says the government cannot impinge on the Brody's adherence to their religious principles when they seek to keep their son alive through continuing medical treatment.

Seeking to resolve the conflict, the hospital last week proposed that the boy be transferred to New York, where he would still be considered legally alive because his heart is functioning, according to Zuckerman.

But, he said, the hospital itself warned that the boy might not survive aboard an ambulance "before he gets off the beltway" which circles Washington -- that is, less than a half-hour away from the hospital.

Defining death is a matter of debate for the Roman Catholic religion as well.

On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI called on the scientific community to reach a consensus for determining when someone's life ends which accounts for technological advances.

His remarks came after a Vatican newspaper published an article questioning whether brain death means the end of life.

Source: AFP

News A-Z
News Category
What's New on Medindia
Black Pepper as Preventive Measure Against Omicron
FODMAP Diet: A Beginner's Guide
View all

Medindia Newsletters Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!
Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

More News on:
Parkinsons Disease Parkinsons Disease Surgical Treatment Death Facts Brain Brain Facts Bereavement Ataxia Transplantation Decreased Consciousness Language Areas in The Brain 

Recommended Reading
Brain Tumor
Brain tumors are the abnormal growth of brain cells that may be benign or metastatic. Brain tumors ....
Meninges are the three layers of membrane that cover the brain and infection of the cerebrospinal .....
Brain Depression - Animation
Interactive section of Medindia provides information about chemistry of Brain depression...
Brilliant Human Brain - Animation
The most amazing and complex organ in the entire universe, the human brain continues to remain an .....
Ataxia affects coordination. Gait becomes unstable and the patient loses balance. The cerebellum or ...
Bereavement refers to grief, pain and sadness following the loss of a loved one, especially during t...
Decreased Consciousness
Consciousness can be decreased to various degrees and result in conditions like delirium, stupor, co...
Language Areas in The Brain
The mechanism of how human brain processes the language to express and comprehend the verbal, writte...
Parkinsons Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease caused by progressive dopamine brain cells loss. ...
Organ and tissue transplantation can give a second chance at life to thousands of people. Learn more...

Disclaimer - All information and content on this site are for information and educational purposes only. The information should not be used for either diagnosis or treatment or both for any health related problem or disease. Always seek the advice of a qualified physician for medical diagnosis and treatment. Full Disclaimer

© All Rights Reserved 1997 - 2022

This site uses cookies to deliver our services. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use