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26th Aug 2022

Brain death test in UK under review after baby declared dead began breathing two weeks later

Danny Jones

Brain death test baby breathing after declared brain dead

A High Court judge ruled that current tests can no longer be considered ‘reliable’

Medical professionals are now undergoing the process of reviewing and rewriting brain stem testing after a baby was found to be breathing a full two weeks on from being declared officially brain dead.

As per Sky News, doctors and ethicists at the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges are now revising the legal precedent for when to test and declare individuals as brain dead after the disturbing revelation which was heard in High Court on Thursday.

A senior doctor told the jury she was “shocked” to learn that a four-month-old baby whose brain stem she had determined to be inactive following a period on a ventilator during a legal dispute back in July, began breathing on his own a fortnight later.

Those treating him at an unnamed London hospital were ultimately forced to rescind “the clinical ascertainment of death” after a nurse noticed the infant had began independent rhythmic breathing. The team confessed that “none of us have seen this before”.

Judge Anthony Hayden, who was asked by Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to decide what the baby’s best interests were, said the case was “striking” even for those with some experience and declared that the current tests are now simply “unreliable”.

The doctor in question also confessed it would be deeply problematic should the news of the testing become common knowledge.

She went on to acknowledge that “it must be just beyond [the parents’] comprehension that doctors looking after their baby can have made what appears to be such a horrible error,” adding: “I can only say that I am terribly sorry for what has happened.”

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