The topic of choice related to medicine that I have chosen to talk about is brain death, a controversial scenario in the field of medicine that has been driven by the ethical arguments behind it. Brain death is defined as irreversible damage to the brain that announces the brain as dysfunctional, and hence controversially, announces the patient dead (Intensive Care NSW, 2019). The brain controls all of our vital functions that are essential to life such as interpreting information, controlling our movement, memory and speech, maintain heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and…, hence when the damage to the brain cells are large and since they cannot repair and the brain is rendered dysfunctional, these functions cannot be controlled, resulting in the person being rendered dead even though their heart continues to circulate blood via ventilators. The debatable aspect of brain death lies in the fact that when the patient is connected to a ventilator, even though the brain is dysfunctional, the heart continues to pump blood out into various organs due to receiving oxygen from the machine and not from nerve impulses from the brain. This results in the patients skin appearing normal and feeling warm and in some instances, some involuntary muscle movements or as religious groups would state, a “miraculous movement”(Better Health Channel, 2019). This leads to the patients loved ones believing that they are alive and refuse to cut the ventilator. The main discussion raised by doctors with their patients is that by placing them on ventilators, it is possible to keep the other organs functioning and due to the patient being unsuccessful to return back to life, their organs can be donated to people whose lives depend on it and can have a massive impact, with the permission of their loved ones (Intensive Care NSW, 2019). The “dead-donor rule”,” a fundamental concept of transplant ethics, requires that patients not be killed by the removal of vital organs necessary for life. This fundamental topic is still in discussion to the ethics driven by it, however Doctors believe that dying is a natural process that will eventually happen in anyone’s life and due to the irreversibility of brain death, organ donation could play a massive role into the medicine field and hence the “dead-donor rule” should not play a big deal. (Magnus et al., 2014) Religion plays a massive role in the underlying ethics behind brain death. They believe the coincidental “miraculous movement” when the patients are connected to the ventilator indicates that they are still alive and refuse to take away the life support. In this day and age, many Muslim scholars and organisations such as Islamic Fiqh Academy, Islamic medical association of North America and other faith based medical organisations as well as legal rulings by multiple Islamic nations have unanimously classified brain death as death. However, not many Muslims agree with organisations beliefs and that a sizeable minority of Muslims denounce brain death and accept death only by cardiopulmonary criteria, which is when their heart fails to circulate blood. The Quran, the sacred and religious book of Islam, classifies a body dead when “the soul is separated from the soulless body” (Miller et al., 2014). Similar to Muslims, the followers of Christianity have been parted into 2 groups. While a vast number of Christian denominations accept death via brain criterion, others also link death to the soul leaving the body supported by neurological examinations (Tonti-Filippini, 2012). It wasn’t until Pope John Paul II formally hinged the dysfunctionality of the brain with formal death in 2000, encouraging the modern Christian view to be influenced by science (Miller et al., 2014). From the perspective of orthodox Jewish people, similar to Muslim and Christian views, cardiopulmonary criteria is the only acceptable diagnosis to render someone dead and so brain death diagnosis is not enough (Miller et al., 2014). Thus in such situation, Rabbinical authorities must be called upon the ventilated-supported patient to declare them dead (Inwald et al., 2000). The biggest misconception for religious people that drives them into uncertainty and in denial is trying to link the medical criterion of rendering a patient dead via brain death is just as equal as death via cardiopulmonary criteria and that the absence of the brain has just as big of an impact as the absence of the heart. (Tonti-Filippini, 2012).
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