Sure, we've seen it in movies where someone has been seriously injured
and the doctors gravely inform the family that their loved one is "brain
dead." The family then has to make the impossible decision to take
them off of life support. But, have you ever considered: what if the doctors
are wrong? Believe it or not, it happens more often than you think. An
incorrect brain death diagnosis can be the basis for a personal injury
claim, so talk to your Birmingham personal injury attorney.
Personal injury claims as a result of medical malpractice
The term "malpractice," in the medical context, refers to cases
where a medical professional has acted negligently or breached the standard
of care for his or her profession, and those actions have resulted in
injury. In the worst cases, medical malpractice results in wrongful death.
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence where an incorrect brain death
diagnosis has been made. How often do healthcare professionals incorrectly
declare someone brain dead? Here are a few examples.
Instances of incorrect brain death diagnoses
- A Children's Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa pronounced a young girl brain
dead and told her parents they needed to make arrangements to take her
off life support and discuss organ donation. Before they could begin harvesting
her organs, she awoke from her coma.
- George Pickering, a 27-year old from Texas, was pronounced brain dead by
doctors at the Tomball Regional Medical Center, who attempted to disconnect
him from life support. His father threatened to shoot himself if they
did. Pickering woke up later that evening and has made a strong recovery.
- A woman from New York was pronounced "brain dead" by doctors
but awoke unexpectedly just as they were preparing to remove her organs
What does "brain dead" actually mean?
Brain death is defined as "death based on the absence of all neurologic
function." Brain dead means not mean dead in the sense that there
is no biological function. Typically, a patient is not classified as brain-dead
until examined by a neurologist. However, depending on the policies of
a specific hospital a neurologist may not be required to give this diagnosis.
In fact, only about 33% of all hospitals require a neurologist to be present.
Unfortunately, it seems that hospital policies regarding brain death are
very inconsistent. This can allow for wide-ranging mistakes.
If you have questions regarding a personal injury matter,
contact us online or by calling the Law Office of Cody R. Wix, LLC, at (205) 381-4787.
"While new policies are being put into place, incorrectly declaring
brain death still occurs all too often and is, not only traumatic for
the family, but put’s the hospital at risk for a malpractice suit."