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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 42

Life, death and organ donation

Professor and Head, Department of Neurology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, Kerala, India

Date of Submission05-May-2020
Date of Acceptance15-May-2020
Date of Web Publication18-Aug-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. A Anand Kumar
Professor and Head, Department of Neurology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi - 682 041, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/AMJM.AMJM_35_20

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How to cite this article:
Kumar A A. Life, death and organ donation. Amrita J Med 2020;16:42

How to cite this URL:
Kumar A A. Life, death and organ donation. Amrita J Med [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 May 21];16:42. Available from: https://www.ajmonline.org.in/text.asp?2020/16/2/42/292430

Death was a natural noncontroversial event before the advent of technology. Complete cessation of cardiovascular and respiratory activity was taken as the end of life. Death identification did not require any sophisticated training. Once technology came in, it was possible to sustain respiratory and cardiovascular activity with the support of machines and drugs. But, for these, interventions, respiration and heart rhythm would have had a natural ending.

With modern intensive care, many new terms came into the picture. Human or individual death, brain death and brain stem death, clinical death, and legal death are some of them. The main question posed was about the possibility of coming back to life in machine maintained lives that satisfied certain criteria. Is it futile to care aggressively for such patients?

Cessation of functions of cerebral cortex, the seat of cognition, behavior, and intelligence puts one in the nonconscious state. However, the vital parameters get maintained by the brain stem.

When brain stem dysfunction is complete and irreversible, it can be taken as death. But, is it the end of life?

The heart is beating and lungs are functioning, although with ventilator support. Is there still life inside the body?

In organ transplantation, we need live organs.

One rich man sent out invitations for a burial. When people gathered, he brought his brand new luxury car and buried it. Surprised people started asking among themselves: Is he mad?

The rich man commented: If you are so much sad on the burial of a car, why you don't cry over organs that can give life to another person get buried?

We are now treading unknown paths.

Dharma is contextual. We have to take decisions based on the existing knowledge, especially so when it is for helping a person in need.

As per the existing knowledge, the external and internal world does not exist for a person who is brain dead or brain stem dead.

Also, there is no possibility of his coming back to life. If, in future, it is possible to instill life into “dead” bodies, will it be a crime to bury the bodies in the present time?

If we take all precautions to avoid observer errors, and institute an authentic protocol, controversies can be avoided.

If there is life, there is death. All of us deserve a dignified end. If the intentions are pure, one can sleep without an iota of guilt lurking in your mind after certifying brain stem death.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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