"Brain death"
A lie destined to die


Anesthesiologists have always concerned themselves with saving lives. For so long, they have dedicated their skills to improve the techniques involved in basic and advanced life support. Nowadays, they seem to drift away from the role they have always concerned themselves with. Biased by their well-intentioned desire to benefit an organ recipient, anesthesiologists may do that at the expense of the helpless donor-(13). Instead of doing their best to help the donor, they tend to handle him as already dead, depriving him of his very limited chance (if he has any) to survive. Once brainstem death is diagnosed and the patient is considered a potential organ donor, attention shifts to the condition of the individual organs. For instance, fluids are restricted for patients with head injuries to minimize cerebral swelling, however, once the patient is declared brain-dead, high volumes are administered to "optimize" the function of (the vital organs, especially (the kidneys. Also, if the patient is not a potential donor, the lines and tubes are removed quickly. However, if he is an organ donor, the equipment stays in place, and should cardiac arrest occur, resuscitation of the "body" must start at once(59). This is what one might, call a slippery slope.


These ideas are shared by many amethesiologists world wide along  with many others Dr. Norm Barber(45) expresses this opinion explicitly in his  book “ The nasty side of organ transplanting, the cannibalistic nature of  transplant medicine “ under the heading : proffional opinion , he  states  that :

The  late Dr Phillip keep , former consultant  anaesthetist at  the Norfolk and Norwich hospital in the United Kingdom, risked his career by publicly  saying what the anaesthetist profession had been debating privately  for decades,

         “ Almost  everyone will say they have felt uneasy about it. 

            Nurses get really, really upset. You stick the knife  in

            and the pulse and blood pressure shoot up. If you don’t give 

             anything at all, the patient will start moving and wriggling

            around and it s’  impossible to do  the operation. The surgeon 

             always asked us to paralyse the patient”


Dr Keep added,

  “ I Don’t  carry a donor card at the moment because I know what happens”

Theatre nurses also express doubt about the health status of the donor. Dr David Hill, also an anaesthetist, checked operating theatre registers at  Addenbrooke  hospital in the United Kingdom and discovered that nurses  recorded the time of death at the end of organ removal as if the donor had come in to the harvest room alive.  This contradicted the official time of death when the patient was diagnosed “ brain dead “


Dr David Wainwright Evans, a cardiologist, formerly of papworth hospital  in cambridgeshire,  England observed that,


Nursing staff treat deep coma patients with continuing tenderness and address patients by name, as the coma deepens rather than lightens, perhaps from an intuitive feeling that hearing has been retained”.


Dr Evans says surgeons tell of persistent uneasiness at the unpleasant  job of harvesting organs, particularly the heart. He says they  don’t get over it despite  doing it many times.


The Swedish medical writer, Nora Machado, quotes one expert as saying,

“ Even surgeons are sometimes heard to say that the patient  suffered  ‘ brain  death’  one day and “ died  the following day’.


D.a. Shewmon,  Professor of Neurology and paediatrics, University of California        ( Los Angeles ) school of medicine, says somesurgeons feel they are killing the donors. He was  interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.


Wendy  Carlisle : so is “ brain death “ the death of the person in  your opinion?

Alan shewmon : I used to think that it was but in fact, during  the 1980s and early  90s  I read a number of  articles and gave lectures  supporting  that idea, and since  then I have had to change my opinion about it due to an  accumulation of evidence to the  contrary…….

Wendy  Carlisle:  I think you ve’ actually  called somewhere  the notion of “ brain death “ a medical fiction

Alan Shewmon: A legal  fiction.

Wendy Carlisle : A legal  fiction  what  does that mean, then, in your opinion for the  whole donor debate ?

Alan Shewmon :  I guess  it ‘s  also a medical fiction. You ‘re right.


Dr David W. Evans  is  also amongst a number of medical professionals who doubt that all organ donors diagnosed “ brain dead “are actually brain dead ,


“ The reason why the heart goes on beating in patients  pronounced “ brain dead “ is  usually, that their brain stems are not really and truly dead but still providing the ‘ sympathetic tone’ necessary for the support of the blood pressure . In other  words, the state of  shock’ ( profound  hypotension ) that characterises  the  destruction of the brain stem  has not occurred  in those patients”.


Dr David Hill  concurs,

 “ A measure of life is the  continuing  hypothalamic  function which controls body temperature . If the patient is warm then that part of the brain is functioning “


Despite scientific advances there still isn’t  an  absolute  determination when a person is finally  dead .



Japanese cardiologist, Dr Yoshio Watanabe adds,

“ if the entire brain including the brain stem has indeed  sustained  irreversible  damage, cardiorespiratory arrest  Would inevitably ensue, bringing about the person’s  death.

However,  the duration of this stage may well last for several days to several weeks  when a respirator is used and hence, this stage at best only  predicts that  death of the individual is imminent, not that  it is confirmed. The  fact that  some brain dead pregnant women  have  given  brith to babies can be taken as strong evidence  that the person  is  still  alive,  and  the use  of terms  such as biomort or heart-  beating cadaver is nothing but a sophism to conceal the contradicition in transplant protagonists’  logic.


Medical and government authorities in the United Kingdom now trying to stifle  professional  debate and public knowledge by telling medical staff in the government health system not to define death,  and avoid terms like “ brain death “  the new term is “ certified dead” which avoids uncomfortable medical definitions that are  difficult to defend or explain . Death is then when a doctor says the patient is dead, regardless.


But once an idea based on fact gains credence  no power can crush it. It was Drs Basil Matta and Peter Young, who wrote the now famous editorial  in “ Aneasthesia “ the journal  of British Royal College of  Anaesthetists, recommending the use of  anaesthetic to prevent possible  pain in donors,


“ The  act  of organ donation is a final altruistic one and  we should ensure the provision  of general anaesthesia at least sufficient to prevent the haemodynamic response to surgery.


Dr. Norm Barber in his book also adds a nurse’s  tale to show how disusting this slippery shope is. This tale runs as follows:

Transplant coordinators and donation agenies tirelessly promise donor families their loved ones will be treated with dignity and respect. Families are led to believe that  unaffected people with a higher cause dismantle the bodies. But  an American nurse who has worked thirteen years in the transplant  field in the united states says,

the families are led to believe they are doing such a noble  and wonderful thing by donating their   loved ones organs . I tend to  believe, in their moment of grief, they are not thinking clearly this is what happens.


A paitent is declared brain dead . The family gives consent to remove organs / tissue/ etc.This body is trying to “ die” but we keep  it alive artificially till suitable donors can be found . Sometimes this can take many hours, as precise tissue matches are not always at the ready. Meanwhile, the body is deteriorating.

My role  in all this was waiting in the operating room. ‘ Are they ready to start this retrieval yet ? no, they  can’t  find anybody to take the heart ( just an example ) . So when they finally do find a recipient, teams  come in from various parts of the country to harvest the various organs. The patient  is brought to the operating room, and the procedure is begun . The heart is removed first, followed by the other organs . Sometimes an organ is not taken because there was no recipient, or it taken  just for research. Occasionally an organ is deemed unusable due to disease process . Immediately after the organs are removed, the various doctors whisk them away in coolers, never giving a thought to the person who just died or the grieving family. They  have no idea of even the person’s  name. So one by one, these ghouls leave the operating room till all that is left is the body laying WIDE open, quite & cold , and the nurses.

Usually some underling of a resident is left to sew the body shut. It is a hideous sight. And the smell of death is starting  to permeate the room. Nauseating !  so the body is closed, and that doctor leaves and all we have is the body and the nurses. It’s left up  to the nurses to clean up one holy hell of mess, and take care of this body that has been defiled and forgotten. We must pull all various tubes and lines out of the body to make it presentable  for  the family. As the tubes are pulled out, this  horrible stench exudes from the depths of this former person. After all. He has been kept alive artificially, and his body has been trying to shut down naturally.

As we are cleaning him up, we try very carefully not to slip  and  fall in the blood and fluids that cover the floor . I try to keep in mind  that  this  could be my family member, and I take great pains to clean the body  as best as I can before taking it to the  morgue and yet keeping in mind the fine  doctors that just left  this nameless  patient. They are flying home in their Lear jets, laughing and partying  awaiting their future glory for

“ saving” some poor suckers life with a transplant.

 Sorry to sound so glumy but I can’t  help but think if families could see how their loved ones were treated, they  would never consent to the taking of organs .