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Lifesharing is one of 58 regional non-profits dedicated to the life-saving and life-enhancing benefits of organ and tissue donation. Lifesharing provides organ recovery, donor family support, and educational services for the diverse population of approximately 3 million people in San Diego and Imperial Counties. Organ and tissue procurement services supply 28 donor hospitals and four local transplant centers with transplantable organs for the ever-growing waiting list of nearly 2,200 San Diego patients and more than 123,000 patients nationwide.

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Brain Death

(also known as Death by Neurological Criteria)

Regarding Brain Death Testing:

  • Brain death is legal death as determined by the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA).

  • All 50 states have enacted legislation accepting death by the following definition as defined by the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association: Death is the irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions OR irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain including the brain stem (Brain Death).

  • For those declared brain dead, legal time of death is upon pronouncement of brain death.

  • Brain death is final and finite; it is not in the same thing as persistent vegetative state. Controlled and extensive clinical exams occur to make the declaration.

  • Brain death is defined as the irreversible loss of function of the brain, including the brain stem.

  • The three cardinal findings in brain death are coma or unresponsiveness, absence of brain stem reflexes and apnea.

  • Coma or unresponsiveness means no cerebral motor response to pain in all extremities (e.g. nail-bed pressure and supraorbital pressure).

  • There has never been a documented case of recovery from brain death under circumstances where all confirmatory and clinical tests have been performed accurately.

Understanding Brain Death

What is brain death? Brain death happens when the brain has no oxygen or blood flow. Without oxygen or blood, the brain dies. There are two ways doctors determine if a patient is dead:

  • One is when the heart and lungs have stopped working.
  • The other is when the entire brain has stopped working.

The second is known as brain death or death by neurological criteria. A patient cannot recover from brain death.

Download Brochure (PDF) Download CA State Law (PDF) Download UDAA (PDF) Download AAN Guidelines (Link) Download Articles (PDF)

Brain Death Testing / Checklist

An example of a hospital’s check list for clinical diagnosis of brain death.

Download Checklist (PDF)

Death by Neurological Criteria Course

The CME course provides the tools to effectively diagnose a patient dead by neurological criteria. It also offers information about how to properly discuss DNC with the families of these patients. The estimated time to complete the course is one hour.

Download Course (Link)
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