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Brain death policies inconsistent among hospitals

Declaring a patient to be brain dead can be a difficult decision for a New York doctor. Ideally, great care should go into the decision because the resulting actions such as removing life support are expected to result in death. An error could lead to the death of someone who might have survived, and a 100 percent accuracy rate is desirable for declarations of brain death. Unfortunately, studies indicate that the procedures in many hospitals deviate from those prescribed by the American Academy of Neurology.

The AAN implemented its parameters for diagnosing brain death in 2010. However, compliance falls short of the 100 percent desired. Of 492 hospitals evaluated during a recent study, more than 40 percent allowed for the diagnosis of brain death by an attending physician, which is contrary to AAN guidelines. Because of potential inexperience, such a professional is considered to be more susceptible to erring in a diagnosis. The inconsistencies among the hospitals studied is a serious concern.

Guidelines for discerning between an individual that could recover from being comatose and an individual who is brain dead have been clearly established in AAN's guidelines in order to ensure professional accountability in this area. A hospital that allows for brain death to be diagnosed without adhering to such guidelines could face questions about issues such as negligence or medical errors. A family faced with the decision to remove life support might consider seeking a second opinion in case of a diagnosis of brain death.

Injuries from medical malpractice can be challenging to identify. In some cases, medical professionals could attempt to explain away adverse outcomes based on a patient's condition. However, second opinions can be valuable in determining the validity of such explanations. Legal assistance could also be helpful if a hospital is uncooperative in making patient records available.

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