A dispute over whether a Colorado man died before or after his organs were harvested has highlighted the ambiguous nature of “brain death”. Last month 31-year-old William Rardin shot himself in the head after a history of mental illness. He was declared brain dead and an organ-recovery team removed his organs. However, the local coroner, Mark Young, later ruled the death a homicide, saying that the organs had been taken before adequate testing had been done to confirm the brain death diagnosis.
The subsequent uproar led to a study by a panel of experts (which included a representative of the organ agency coordinating the donation). It found that Rardin had been brain dead. As a result, the district attorney declared that there had been no crime. Mr Young has riposted by asking a neurosurgeon to review the case. He is also considering a jury inquest. Rardin’s death certificate still names homicide as the cause of death.
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