Brain Death Determination in Israel: The First Two Years Experience Following Changes to the Brain Death Law—Opportunities and Challenges

J. Cohen1,2,*, T. Ashkenazi2, E. Katvan3, P. Singer1

Article first published online: 17 MAY 2012 - DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2012.04089.x

To increase support for the concept of brain death, changes accommodating requirements of the religious authorities were made to the Brain Death Act in Israel. These included (1) considering patient wishes regarding brain death determination (BDD); (2) mandatory performance of apnea and ancillary testing; (3) establishment of an accreditation committee and (4) requirement for physician training courses. We describe the first 2 years experience following implementation (2010–2011). During 2010, the number of BDD decreased from 21.9/million population (during the years 2007–2009) to 16.0 (p < 0.001). Reasons included family resistance to brain death testing (27 cases), inability to perform apnea testing (7) and logistic problems related to ancillary testing (26 cases). The number of physicians available to declare brain death also decreased (210 vs. 102). During 2011, BDDs increased to 20.5/million following the introduction of radionuclide angiography as an ancillary test; other reasons for nondetermination persisted (family resistance 26 cases, inability to perform apnea testing 10 cases). Instead of increasing opportunities, many obstacles were encountered following the changes to the Brain Death Act. Although some of these challenges have been met, longer term follow-up is required to assess their complete impact.

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