Naperville Estate Planning Attorney Discusses Brain Death Study

brain death standards, medical study, Naperville estate planning attorneyThe process of estate planning is intended to help you protect your assets and property in the event of your death. In addition, a major element of the planning process deals directly with decisions related to health care and end-of-life concerns. In my practice as an estate planning attorney, I have helped hundreds of clients develop comprehensive estate plans which often include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills and other advance medical directives. It is extremely important to be prepared for the time after your death, but a recent study indicates that doctors and hospitals often have different standards as to what constitutes brain death.

National Standards Regarding Brain Death

In 2010, the American Academy of Neurology instituted a set of guidelines intended to help medical professionals determine if and when a patient has lost all brain function and is only being kept alive by artificial means. The importance of a standardized procedure for doing so is obvious: doctors and hospitals need to be absolutely sure of such judgments so that appropriate decisions can be made. To declare a patient brain dead, a medical professional must determine that there is no brain function regulating automatic body processes, including breathing. The doctor must also rule out the possibility of brain function being restored at a later time.

Troubling Discrepancies  

A recent study conducted by a team at the Yale School of Medicine strongly suggests there are differences in the way hospitals determine if brain death is a certainty. For example, some conditions like hypothermia (extremely low body temperature) or hypotension (extremely low blood pressure) can closely resemble brain death. Yet, a startling percentage of medical facilities do not require these types of conditions to be excluded as possibilities before declaring brain death. Furthermore, as much as 10% of hospitals do not require doctors to confirm that patients cannot breathe on their own before making such a determination. According to neurologist Dr. James Bernat, “No one should ever do a brain death determination without an apnea test.  Determining apnea is essential.”

Why End of Life Planning Is So Important

An estate planning attorney can help you and your family establish high standards of care and follow-through related to medical services. Every person deserves to be treated as a priority in a medical facility and to have his or her needs met and desires honored. Estate planning instruments can give you the power to ensure that your wishes regarding end of life care are taken seriously and you receive a high degree of individualized care and attention. Contact a knowledgeable Naperville estate planning attorney today to schedule a consultation with a professional team committed to protecting your rights.




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