Neurology Expert Witnesses & Brain Death Diagnosis

Neurology expert witnesses review all aspects of litigation involving neurological care including medical records for patients in a coma. In a Nevada state court case, the family of Aden Hailu is struggling to keep her on life support in Reno’s St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center hospital. The hospital’s Director of Neurology found signs of brain function on April 13, 2015 but none on the following day. Although doctors have declared Hailu brain dead, the family attorney argues that the cost of care is the reason St. Mary’s is pressuring her family to remove the patient from life support.

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in November that the standards used by the hospital to make a determination of brain death might not satisfy state law. The next hearing regarding the interpretation of end-of-life guidelines is scheduled for December 29, 2015, in Washoe District Court. A determination will be made as to whether the American Academy of Neurology guidelines used to declare her brain dead are acceptable under the Uniform Determination of Death Act which was adopted by the state in 1985.

The American Academy of Neurology uses these measurements to determine brain death: coma, absence of brain stem reflexes, and the inability to breathe unassisted.

In The Diagnosis Of Brain Death, physicians Ajay Kumar Goila and Mridula Pawar write:

The care of a severely brain injured patient is one of the toughest challenges for a critical care physician. When the patient’s condition evolves to brain death, the physician has the responsibility to diagnose brain death with certainty and to offer the patient’s family the opportunity to donate organs and/or tissues.

There is a clear difference between severe brain damage and brain death. The physician must understand this difference, as brain death means that life support is futile, and brain death is the principal prerequisite for the donation of organs for transplantation.

In litigation involving a brain death diagnosis, testimony by a vetted neurology expert witness is critical. These experts are able to translate medical records into information a jury can assimilate. They are skilled in describing how symptoms and treatment of brain damage differ from those of brain death. In a lawsuit with an emotionally charged issue such as an end of life determination, the seasoned neurology expert witness is an invaluable team asset in assuring a legal win.

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