The number of patients being diagnosed with brain death is increasing in America. A majority of people likely have no reason to suspect wrongdoing. However, growing evidence shows cases of premature diagnoses of brain death proven wrong, and a suspected desire to harvest organs for desperately ill individuals.
Bobby Schindler is the brother of Terri Schindler Schiavo. Her case made world headlines as Bobby and his family fought a losing battle to keep her estranged husband from withdrawing food and water from Terri.
Bobby is the president of the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network, which aids patients and their families in similar situations. In addition to information collected by our team, Bobby wrote a compelling piece that demonstrated families have legitimate reasons to doubt or second-guess a diagnosis of brain death, particularly if the prospect of organ donation is present. Dr. Cicero G Coimbra, a neurologist and professor of neuroscience, stated that in 2016 alone the organ procurement business generated nearly 25 billion dollars.
At one point, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Guidelines for Brain Death Determination read, “Many of the details of the clinical neurologic examination to determine brain death cannot be established by evidence-based methods. The detailed brain death evaluation protocol that follows is intended as a useful tool for clinicians. It must be emphasized that this guidance is opinion-based. Alternative protocols may be equally informative.” (Emphasis added)
More recently they have stated, “In adults, there are no published reports of recovery of neurologic function after a diagnosis of brain death using the criteria reviewed in the 1995 AAN practice parameter.”
But herein lies a significant problem. Research published by JAMA Neurology in February 2016 examined 508 hospitals and found huge discrepancies in how they determine a patient is brain dead.
A JAMA Network article from September 2020 stated “In the US in 2016 there were an estimated 15,405 cases [of brain death], about 2% of all hospital deaths.”
Life and death decisions regarding patients are being made with highly subjective protocols. The ANN stated, “Because of a high risk of bias and inadequate statistical precision, there is insufficient evidence to determine if any new ancillary tests accurately identify brain death.”
Decisions that a patient is beyond hope are being made too quickly to allow for a realistic level of recovery. In many cases, the best thing physicians can do for their brain-injured patients is give their brains time to begin the healing process. The following cases demonstrate dramatically the need for this protocol.
On August 27, 2022, Megan Marlow was told that her husband suffered a “neurological death” and stated they would keep him, an organ donor, on life support until they were able to locate organ recipients. But two days later, they phoned her with the news that her husband was alive.
Lewis Roberts was diagnosed as brain stem dead after an accident. Hours before his organs were to be harvested, Lewis began breathing on his own. He is now well enough to play sports.
After an accident in 2011, Taylor Hale suffered a brain hemorrhage, and part of her brain slid into her spinal canal. This was a dire situation that a reasonable doctor might predict a negative outcome. But once removed from life support, she began to breathe on her own and the following week began to speak. Taylor attended her high school graduation.
Zack Dunlap was diagnosed brain dead after a severe brain injury in 2008, but two months later he walked out of the hospital.
A four-month-old infant shocked doctors in 2022 when the baby began breathing independently after being declared brain stem dead. The headline read, “Brain death test in UK under review after baby declared dead began breathing independently.”
Trenton McKinley suffered a severe brain injury in 2019, and about one week later, doctors told his parents he was brain dead and asked to harvest his organs. They agreed. But the day before doctors were to remove life support, Trenton began to move. He has embarked on a long and strenuous recovery but is showing great promise.
Many more examples exist.
A 2021 study published in JAMA Neurology concluded that “decisions regarding the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment…should not be made in the early days following brain injury.” Dr. Geoffrey Manley, the senior author of the study, stated their research showed a “significant proportion of our participants experienced major improvements in life functioning, with many regaining independence between two weeks and 12 months after injury.”
Left unchecked, this alarming trend is ushering in a quiet form of euthanasia in America.
Fighting to protect life,