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The diagnosis of brain death
  1. Bryan Jennett
  1. Department of Neurosurgery, Institute of Neurological Sciences, Glasgow, and the University of Glasgow


    No apologies are needed for returning to the subject of brain death and its definition. There has been so much public discussion that it is important for public confidence that the issues should be clarified. In the following two contributions - one from a professor of neurosurgery and the other from a lawyer - an attempt is made to convince doctors (if that is needed) and lay people alike that what appears to be a new bogy is not one at all but a confusion of thought arising from the use of new technology to treat brain-damaged patients. This, however, might not be the view of Mr Skegg (Journal of medical ethics, 2, 190) who, fearful of the situation, has argued for a statutory definition of death.

    Professor Jennett discusses the findings of a conference of the Royal Colleges of the United Kingdom which met to try and remove uncertainty surrounding the diagnosis of brain death. In his view the Colleges' document is to be welcomed for `its authority and its practicality' and `should lead to more humane medical practice'. Mr Kennedy, from a legal position, comes to the same conclusion, that with a good code of practice, as advocated by the Royal Colleges, no legislation is called for.

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