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May 14, 2008

A Family's Request for Complementary Medicine After Patient Brain Death

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: John F. Kennedy School of Government and Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Dr Applbaum); General Internal Medicine and Biomedical Ethics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota (Dr Tilburt); Skeletal Clinical Studies Unit, Cranial Facial and Skeletal Diseases Branch, National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Bethesda, Maryland (Dr Collins); and Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, Maryland (Dr Wendler).

JAMA. 2008;299(18):2188-2193. doi:10.1001/jama.299.18.2188

A 19-year-old woman living with relatives in the United States who was admitted for elective cranial surgery for complications related to a congenital disorder developed an acute intracranial hemorrhage 10 days after surgery. The patient was declared dead following repeat negative apnea tests. The patient's father requested that the treating team administer an unverified traditional medicinal substance to the patient. Because of the unusual nature of this request, the treating team called an ethics consultation. The present article reviews this case and discusses other cases that share key features to determine whether and when it is appropriate to accommodate requests for interventions on patients who have been declared dead.

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