Semin Neurol 2015; 35(02): 174-179
DOI: 10.1055/s-0035-1547537
Thieme Medical Publishers 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Brain Death: Legal Obligations and the Courts

Christopher M. Burkle
1   Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
Thaddeus M. Pope
2   Health Law Institute, Hamline University School of Law, Saint Paul, Minnesota
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
03 April 2015 (online)


Brain death, or death determined by neurologic criteria, has been legally adopted in all U.S. states for decades. Despite its long-established history, a lack of clear understanding has led to disputes requiring a legal forum for resolution. Recently, physicians and hospitals across the country have been impacted by a growing number of disputes about brain death. The authors offer clinicians a historical perspective on the evolution of brain death as a legal cause of death in the United States. They then review the more common legal categories of disputes encountered, including representative court cases for each. This overview provides physicians with a general legal perspective on brain death so they may better appreciate the pertinent issues if and when later confronted.