Ethical and Legal Concerns With Nevada’s Brain Death Amendments

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 15 (2):193-198 (2018)
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Abstract

In early 2017, Nevada amended its Uniform Determination of Death Act, in order to clarify the neurologic criteria for the determination of death. The amendments stipulate that a determination of death is a clinical decision that does not require familial consent and that the appropriate standard for determining neurologic death is the American Academy of Neurology’s guidelines. Once a physician makes such a determination of death, the Nevada amendments require the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment within twenty-four hours with limited exceptions. Neurologists have generally supported Nevada’s amendments for clarifying the diagnostic standard and limiting the ability of family members to challenge it. However, it is more appropriate to view the Nevada amendments with concern. Even though the primary purpose of the UDDA is to ensure that all functions of a person’s entire brain have ceased, the AAN guidelines do not accurately assess this. In addition, by characterizing the determination of death as solely a clinical decision, the Nevada legislature has improperly ignored the doctrine of informed consent, as well as the beliefs of particular faiths and cultures that reject brain death. Rather than resolving controversies regarding brain death determinations, the Nevada amendments may instead instigate numerous constitutional challenges.

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