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How hospitals declare brain death

According to a study published in JAMA Neurology, many U.S. hospitals are not following American Academy of Neurology Practice Parameters to determine brain death. While the study does note that hospitals are coming closer into alignment with the guidelines, Ohio residents should know that there is not 100 percent compliance. The parameters were created to reduce the possibility of a misdiagnosis. For the study, researchers examined 492 hospitals and their policies related to declaring brain death between July 2012 and July 2015.

The study determined that the application of AAN standards were incomplete and inconsistent from one hospital to another. In 43 percent of hospitals examined, an attending physician was allowed to declare a patient brain dead. This is against AAN standards, as these less-experience doctors are believed to be prone to higher rates of error when making the determination.

One of the individuals associated with the study said that there should be a high level of accountability when it comes to following the AAN guidelines. He said that the standards were specifically designed to be clear and straightforward to allow for judicious decisions regarding brain death. Ideally, it would allow those decisions to be correct 100 percent of the time.

If an individual dies because of an incorrect diagnosis, his or her family may pursue a medical malpractice case. The family might be entitled to compensation for final expenses, lost future earnings of the victim as well as punitive damages. An attorney might be able to review the case to determine the best course of action and to make sure a case is filed within any statute of limitations. It may be possible to settle such a case outside of court or pursue compensation through a formal trial.

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