Pro-Life Victory: Experts Vote against Loosening the Definition of Brain Death

This summer, a group of legal and medical experts debated loosening the standards that could jeopardize vulnerable patients even more. Thankfully, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) has now decided to halt revision to determining brain death.

The ULC is responsible for drafting model legislation for each state to take back to its legislature. The Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA) is one of those models, drafted in 1980 to establish a uniform definition of death across all 50 states.

Texas Right to Life and many Pro-Life experts are skeptical of the concept of brain death as a whole, because it requires one to believe that a patient with little or no brain function is “dead” despite having other fully functioning organs, including a beating heart. Pro-Life advocates have always rejected the notion that the only quality that gives a human being worth is their cognitive or rational abilities. All human beings are worthy of protection despite their levels of mental capacity or consciousness. So, in the case of brain injured patients, if there is any question about whether a patient is living or dead, we should not assume someone is dead. Quite the opposite. When there is uncertainty, we should always err on the side of life.

Under the formerly proposed revisions, a patient could be declared legally dead solely if the patient has “permanent coma, cessation of spontaneous respiratory functions, and loss of brainstem reflexes.” In other words, a physician would no longer be required to examine the functioning of the entire brain before declaring the patient dead.

READ MORE: I removed myself from the organ donor registry… here’s why.

According to the current UDDA standards, death can occur in one of two ways. Either the circulatory and respiratory functions could cease, which is the traditional means of determining death, or the brain could cease to function. This latter standard, “brain death,” has only been around for about 55 years, and was established partially as a means of increasing the supply of viable organs for transplantation.

The ULC’s revisions would have permitted a physician to examine the functioning of only some parts of the brain before declaring brain death.

Earlier this year, Texas Right to Life wrote a letter to the ULC outlining our grave concerns and advising the ULC to reject the proposed language. A host of Pro-Life individuals and groups, as well as other state and national organizations like the American College of Physicians, joined the effort to oppose revisions to the UDDA.

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The ULC’s decision to heed these voices in the medical and Pro-Life communities is an undeniable victory for vulnerable patients, especially those who are victims of a premature brain death diagnosis.

But the battle is not over. The ULC could revisit this conversation in the future, and it is only a matter of time before the ULC proposes another questionable revision to our nation’s uniform health laws.

The Pro-Life movement must remain vigilant to monitor groups like the ULC who may be jeopardizing patients’ lives on the advice of “the experts.”

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