Brain Stem Death: A United Kingdom Anaesthetist’s View

  • David J. Hill
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 66)


For more than twenty years, so-called “brain death” in the United Kingdom has been a misnomer. Now it is recognized that this condition should be called “brain stem death” because it is only the brain stem that is tested. Such tests are incomplete and do not determine the absence of all activity in the brain stem. It is agreed that they do not exclude activity in the higher parts of the brain. Patients certified to be brain stem dead are still responsive, whether by spinal reflexes only or not, and there is no agreement on the need for anesthesia. Very little of this controversial situation is public knowledge, and consent may be poorly informed. There is a serious shortage of organs for transplantation, and procedures advocated to increase the supply are directed towards compulsion rather than increasing information.

There are undoubted benefits for some patients from organ transplantation. As so often, the ends are laudable, but the means that have to be employed to achieve those ends are dubious.


Brain Stem British Medical Journal Brain Death Persistent Vegetative State Spinal Reflex 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Hill
    • 1
  1. 1.The Old Post officeHuntindonUK

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