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In the past, many countries have been using “heart stopping”, “no breathing” and “zero blood pressure” as the criteria for death. However, with the development of medical technology, the patient’s heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing and other vital signs can be reversed or maintained for a long time by a series of drugs and advanced equipment. However, if structural damage to the brainstem occurs, then no matter what means are used, a person’s life cannot be restored. Therefore, the use of brain death as a criterion for death is more scientific and reliable than that of cardiac death.
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Brain death is defined as the permanent loss of function of the brainstem or the central nervous system above the brainstem as the criterion for declaring death. It is worth mentioning that a vegetative person is not brain dead, and the brainstem function of a vegetative person is normal. The reason why a vegetative person cannot move freely as a normal person is that their cerebral cortex is severely damaged or in a state of sudden inhibition. A vegetative person can breathe, heartbeat and brainstem response autonomously, while a brain-dead person cannot breathe autonomously and it is permanent and irreversible.
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Since 1968, when the Special Committee on the Review of the Definition of Death at Harvard University proposed the use of brain death as a diagnostic indicator of death, more than 80 countries and regions around the world have established new criteria for death, and some countries have enacted corresponding brain death laws. In other countries, brain death and respiratory death exist as juxtaposed criteria for death.