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The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 16, Issue 1, Spring 2016

Nancy Valko
Pages 55-59
DOI: 10.5840/ncbq20161617

Brain Death: Do We Know Enough?

Every year, people make decisions based on trust in the certainty of diagnoses of brain death. These decisions range from signing an organ donation card to withdrawing life support from a loved one. Two recent developments have revived concerns about medical standards for determining brain death. One is a recent study on variability in brain death policies in the United States; the other is the filing of a federal lawsuit to rescind the death certificate of Jahi McMath, a teenager who appears to have survived a 2013 declaration of brain death. The author examines these developments and asks whether trust in the certainty of brain-death determinations is currently warranted.