Make yourself brain dead from lithium

SWR2 knowledge Brain death - a controversial concept

For decades, the diagnosis of brain death was only made in connection with an organ donation. Little attention was paid to the fact that brain death actually also applies to patients if no transplant is planned. Before the introduction of the criterion of brain death, therapy would have been limited to a minimum in hopeless situations and natural death would have been waited for. Pneumonia, for example.

That was a death that the relatives could understand. The situation has fundamentally changed with the concept of brain death. These patients now have to die a death that society does not really accept. It always meets with criticism when you stand with a brain-dead person and see who is actually alive. According to our expectations.

Brain death turns out to be an abstract definition. Introduced to advance transplant medicine. How the relatives cope with it was not an issue when it was introduced. And that is by far not the only problem facing the clinics.

To diagnose brain death, you need a neurologist. But smaller hospitals usually do not have a corresponding specialist department. It can take days, even weeks, until a consultant doctor who is summoned finally attests to the total failure of the brain. An enormous burden for the relatives.

The diagnosis of brain death is tricky

A very strict protocol prescribed by the German Medical Association must be adhered to. Much more important than the formalities for the neurologist, however, is that his help quickly creates clarity for the relatives.

To be on the safe side, the examination for brain death must be carried out twice, at least 12 hours apart. If the findings are confirmed and no organ donation is planned, action is taken immediately. The therapy is exhibited in full.

Skepticism about brain death is growing in the population. Critical citizens' initiatives have formed. When this type of death was introduced over four decades ago, the crucial question was simply ignored: Why is the loss of brain function actually responsible for human death? After all, the rest of the body obviously lives on.

The highest body

A question made for the German Ethics Council. The highest body for moral and ethical definitions that also advises the federal government. In January 2015, the panel published a detailed statement on the subject of brain death.

The basic thesis of the experts surely surprised many medical professionals: It is not the loss of thinking, feeling or one's own personality that causes brain death for the committee. These patients are dead because they cannot survive without a brain.

Is it really not possible for a human organism to survive in the long term without an intact brain? The spectacular studies by the American neurologist Shewmon seem to prove exactly the opposite. His case collection shows that brain dead can survive months, sometimes even years. One child even went through puberty. But everyone remained in the deep coma stage. Nobody found their way back to life, not even at times.

That would be a disaster for the majority of the relatives. Instead of a quick, clarifying diagnosis: agonizing uncertainty, false hopes and feelings of guilt. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is they who are the actual patients in this situation. If they are not professionally assisted, they are threatened with lifelong psychological stress, a post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Broadcast on