Myth of ‘brain death’ exposed in Michigan

“Brain death” sounds so scientific when uttered by a medical authority, an indication that the real life of a patient is over.  But it is a judgment call with so little scientific basis that (via the New York Post):

A 14-year-old girl wounded during the shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Mich., was declared brain-dead and about to have her organs harvested when she suddenly showed signs of life, according to a new report Monday.

The girl remained hospitalized in critical condition and “fighting for her life,” ABC News said.

Michigan State Police Lt. Dale Hinz told ABC that the girl’s family said Bronson Methodist Hospital was preparing to remove the girl’s organs for donation when she squeezed her distraught mom’s hand.

The girl squeezed her mother’s hand again when the mom asked if her daughter could hear her, Hinz said.

She also gave thumbs-up signs with both hands when a doctor asked her to give him a thumbs-up if she could hear him, Hinz said.

Keep in mind when you read about “brain death” that hospitals dread the prospect of expensive long-term treatment to maintain the lives of severely injured patients with brain injuries, while the prospect of organ harvesting offers the opportunity to perform glamorous transplants and help patients with good prospects of recovery.  This is not to say it is exclusively a financial consideration, but rather that perspectives are influenced by these considerations.

“Brain death” is a term that is entirely misleading in its pretense of finality, as this tragic case in Kalamazoo proves.  It is time to euthanize its use.

If you experience technical problems, please write to