“I’m not a neurologist but I play one in the hospital”

From MSNBC (Pronounced dead, man takes “miraculous” turn; Doctors can’t explain why 21-year-old Zack Dunlap recovered from accident)

…36 hours after the accident, doctors performed a PET scan of his brain and informed his parents, along with other family members who had gathered to keep vigil at the hospital, that there was no blood flowing to Zack’s brain; he was brain-dead…

Some four hours after doctors declared Zack dead, a nurse began to remove tubes from Dunlap. His cousins, Dan and Christy Coffin, both of whom are nurses, were also in the room. Something about Zack’s appearance made them think that he wasn’t as dead as the doctors said. On a hunch, Dan pulled out his bone-handled pocket knife and ran the blade up the sole of one of Zack’s feet.

The foot yanked away, but the other nurse said it was a reflex action. So Dan Coffin then dug a fingernail under one of Zack’s nails. Zack yanked his arm away and across his body, and that, the other nurse agreed, wasn’t a reflex action. It was a sign of life.

The problem with the story is that the cousins seem to have done a better job at applying the American Academy of Neurology’s brain death criteria than did the doctors.

If the result of this case is to doubt determinations of brain death that did not meet the AAN criteria, that is a good outcome. If the result is to doubt determinations of brain death that did meet the AAN criteria, that is a bad outcome.

Like I say, bring your own doctor to the hospital if you can, or at least a nurse.

Thanks to Mickey.

March 26, 2008

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