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Courts, rights and the critically brain-injured patient
  1. Barry Lyons1,
  2. Mary Donnelly2
  1. 1 School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin Faculty of Health Sciences, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2 School of Law, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Barry Lyons, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin Faculty of Health Sciences, Dublin, Ireland; balyons{at}


The reality of current clinical practice in the UK is that where a patient’s family refuses to agree to testing for brain stem death (BD), such cases will ultimately end up in court. This situation is true of both adults and children and reinforced by recent legal cases. While recourse to the courts might be regrettable in such tragic cases, if public trust in the medical diagnosis of BD is to be maintained all aspects of the process must be conducted in a way that is transparent and open to scrutiny. This is not an ‘ineffective expenditure’ of resources, but an essential element of a human rights-compliant legal system.

  • Death
  • Human Rights
  • Informed Consent

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  • Contributors Both authors contributed equally to this response.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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