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The Diagnosis of Brain Death: Six Signs and Symptoms

The brain is the master computer for all of your functions, so if it has failed, there’s no wonder that almost all bodily functions will be impacted along with it. It’s possible for a person to appear to still be alive when their brain is no longer functioning, but a brain-dead person is not legally considered to be alive.

That means while the patient is still breathing (with the help of a ventilator) and their heart is beating, their brain has called it quits. This is a situation that can occur after a patient has been placed on life support, and is not the same as a coma (which is an unconscious state a person can come out of), notes the Better Health Channel in Australia. Here are six signs of brain death…

1. The Patient Can’t Breathe on Their Own

One major telltale sign of brain death is that the mechanism in the brain that keeps you breathing when you’re not conscious won’t kick in. That means to get a diagnosis of brain death, doctors will often see if a patient can breathe unassisted, notes the National Kidney Foundation.

During the tests to determine brain dead status, the patient is placed on a ventilator and may be given medications to maintain blood pressure and other bodily functions. “During the brain death testing, the ventilator and medications continue but they do not affect the results of the testing,” it notes.

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