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March 29, 1965

"A Living Death"

JAMA. 1965;191(13):1087. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03080130047023

To the Editor:—  Some time ago, a physician faced by an apparently moribund patient worked rapidly and within some minutes managed to get the heart beating again, having to open the chest wall to do it. Unforunately, he did not succeed until the upper part of the man's brain was destroyed; as a result, the man was left an idiot.The family sued and gained a tremendous sum as damages. This seemed terrible for several reasons. Even if an expert like Dr. Hamlin1 had been there watching the proceedings, he might not have thought of blaming the doctor for losing the race with mental death. Incidentally, anyone who is interested in knowing how long it takes the brain to die might like to read a study published in 1937.2 There are 107 items in the bibliography. The interesting point is that the susceptibility to anoxemia, in the brain,

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