What is brain death?
Brain death or technically referred as “brain stem death” is defined as irreversible loss of functions of brain i.e. end of all brain activity which is not reversible. Brain stem death usually results from massive irreversible brain injury, generally, after a major road traffic accident, head injury, or a bleed in the brain due to a stroke. Brain dead individuals qualify to become organ donors as per The Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994. A patient determined to be brain dead is legally and clinically dead where reflexes are absent and apnea (no breathing/unable to breathe). A brain dead person is dead and can never wake up.

What is the difference between Coma and Brain Death?
Brain death is irreversible and is death, whereas, a person in coma is unconscious and does not respond to stimuli but his brain is still completely functional or partially functional. Brain dead
individual’s brain cells are dead, there is zero brain activity noted and he/she does not breathe.

How does a brain dead person become organ donor?
Generally, victims of road traffic accidents and stroke are kept in an Intensive Care Unit and are connected to a ventilator as a part of life-saving intensive care treatment. Despite providing the best care, some of these patients cannot recover due to irreversible injury to the brain and are declared as brain dead. As they are connected to a ventilator, the heart of brain dead patients may continue to beat for about 2-3 days and the vital organs like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs will be functional due to blood/oxygen with the help of ventilator artificially. The family members are informed about the patient’s irreversible condition and the patient is declared brain dead.

Brain dead patient looks unconscious, is warm to touch, he/she appears to breathe due to the support of the ventilator. The family finds it difficult to understand the concept of brain death when this tragic situation is explained to them. If the family members consent to donate his/her organs, then this is called deceased organ donation. Once the organs are harvested, the body is handed over to the family members. These harvested organs are transplanted to the patients that are suffering from organ failure. This distribution of organs is done by the respective state government authorities as per the guidelines.

Process of Brain Death Declaration

According to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994, brain death has to be certified by four medical experts not connected to transplantation.

This panel of medical experts comprises of:
1. Government certified doctor who is the in-charge of the hospital.
2. Independent specialist nominated by the doctor who is in-charge of the hospital.
3. A neurosurgeon nominated by the doctor who is in-charge of the hospital.
4. Treating doctor of the deceased patient.