Brain death is the irreversible loss of all brain function. Including the lack of capacity for consciousness and respirations (Presidents Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine 1981). Brain death is equivalent to traditional circulatory death, which is defined by cessation of tissue perfusion and the absence of pulses. However, with brain death the heart will continue to beat and spinal cord reflexes may persist for a short time (Canadian Neurocritical Care Group 1999).
History of the Definition of Brain Death
In 1959, Mollaret and Goulon first introduced the term coma dépassé (beyond coma) to describe irreversible brain damage (Mollaret and Goulon 1959). The modern scientific concept of brain death is largely based on this original description of 23 comatose patients who exhibited loss of brainstem reflexes, respirations, and flat electroencephalograms (EEG). Several years later, the Harvard ad hoc committee formalized the...