The Law Offices of John Phebus

Some hospitals fail to follow brain death diagnosis guidelines

In the past, the American Academy of Neurology has attempted to established guidelines for the diagnosis of brain death. In 2010, it published practice parameters meant to create consistent steps for diagnosing brain death that all hospitals would follow, including those in Arizona. A follow up study that surveyed hospital practices, however, discovered that not all hospitals are applying the guidelines.

The study, published at the JAMA Neurology website, found that 43 percent of hospitals allowed an attending physician to declare someone brain dead. This deviates from the AAN parameters that seek to ensure an accurate diagnosis of brain death in every case. One of the authors of the study said that by leaving the diagnosis up to attending physicians, the possibility existed that the inexperience of any given individual physician could lead to an error.

The academy wants all hospitals to follow its brain death diagnosis best practices. The guidelines have been designed to carefully take physicians through the steps of deciding whether a patient is brain dead or has a chance of emerging from a coma.

A misdiagnosis by a physician in a hospital setting could lead to serious injury, disability or death. A person who has suffered from a medical error might choose to talk to an attorney about the possibility of filing a hospital negligence lawsuit. An attorney might consult with a medical expert to determine if negligence on the part of a health care professional or facility took place. If so, then the lawsuit could be filed with an eye towards potentially settling the matter out of court.

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