Diagnosing DeathNo doubt many of you have heard the odd 'ghost story' involving nail scratch marks discovered on the inside lids of long occupied coffins. It seems when you are dead, you still may not have died yet? Now you can look to BBC's Health reporter, Anna-Marie Lever for incite into what may seem to those outside the medical profession or to even our novice medical students at UMHS, as probably the simplest diagnosis for a physician to make ~ diagnosing death. The article entitled "How easy is it to diagnose death?" (BBC-Health column) questions that assumption.
The report cites various cases where patients were mistakenly declared dead or appear to have regained life, sometimes referred to as the "Lazarus Syndrome". The question warrants further examination, especial by those students studying medical ethics this semester, as one quickly realizes the enormity of the medical, ethical and legal implications of a misdiagnosis of death!
"Dr Daniel Sokol, a barrister and medical ethicist at Imperial College London, said: "The implications of confirming a person dead are enormous, and hence doctors have an ethical obligation to ensure that they 'diagnose' death with due care and skill."Note the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA) provides this definition:
§ 1. [Determination of Death]. An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead. A determination of death must be made in accordance with accepted medical standards.
Read the full article posted this morning (October 17, 2012) online at BBC News - Health.