B.C. hospital kept patient alive for 10 days because family’s culture did not accept brain death

I am reposting this article from the National Post. It is not specifically about organ donation, but it is certainly relevant to the topic. Is brain death a true indication of death, or does death only come when the heart ceases beating? I highlight the following paragraph because it points out the importance of brain death for organ transplant medicine:

In the past, people were considered officially dead only when their hearts stopped beating. The notion of brain death — an irreversible loss of all brain function — emerged in the 1960s in response to medical technology that could keep the heart and lungs functioning mechanically. Blood continuing to flow through the body also presented prime conditions for removing organs for transplant.

Click here to read the whole article.

I’m curious what you think. Do you hold beliefs regarding the acceptability of brain death as a sufficient criterion for “real” death? Is medicine purely a science, or does culture, tradition, religion, etc. play a role in its practice? What role should the family play in the care of a hospitalized person near death?

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