We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
Viewpoint |

The Meaning of Brain Death A Different View

Robert D. Truog, MD1,2; Franklin G. Miller, PhD3
[+] Author Affiliations
1Division of Critical Care Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
2Division of Medical Ethics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
3Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(8):1215-1216. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.2272.
Text Size: A A A
Published online


The recent case of Jahi McMath, a teenager in Oakland, California, was extensively publicized in the news media and led to prominent commentaries in medical journals on the meaning of brain death.1,2 McMath is a 14-year-old adolescent who in December 2013 experienced devastating neurological damage following complications from a tonsillectomy. McMath met criteria for the diagnosis of brain death. She continues, however, to receive mechanical ventilation, tube feedings, and supportive care at an undisclosed location, with her treatment financed by private funds, according to the most recent reports.


brain death

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

First Page Preview

View Large
First page PDF preview





Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Submit a Comment
Words and their meanings
Posted on August 4, 2014
Madhusree Singh, MD
Veteran's Medical Center / UCSD, San DIego
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
I find the viewpoint about brain death carefully worded and informative. I think one of the main reasons we continue to have such public conflicts about issues brain death is related to problems that we have communicating these complex ideas amongst each other and to the lay public, as well. The other gargantuan problem is our closed attitudes about these discussions- culturally we are uncomfortable talking about death (although, this is changing- slowly) and the pervasive "us versus them" attitude that we have in health care. This damages an already difficult conversation. In the case discussed, it is likely that very little communication occurred between the family and clinicians after the disastrous operation. I think that it is key to address life and death issues early and often as no matter what decisions are made, there is long term suffering for the family.
Submit a Comment


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

3 Citations

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Related Collections
PubMed Articles

Care at the Close of Life: Evidence and Experience
Diagnosing Brain Death