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Brain Activity Continued After Patient's Death [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 15, 2017 07:01 AM EDT

Doctors in Canada reported unexpected findings from an observational study of four patients in the intensive care unit -- brain activity continues for over 10 minutes after the body has died.

The research was initiated because organ donation is already too complex -- with medical and ethical challenges that need to be considered. Studies about brain activity before and after the heart stops working in the dying process is lacking.

In the context of organ donation, information that may be gathered could help doctors. A number of doctors worry that patients might still feel pain during this period.

In the study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, three of four patients' brain activity stopped before the heartbeat and arterial blood pressure ceased but one patient's recordings showed single delta wave bursts after being declared dead. Delta waves are seen during the deep stages of sleep.

The dying process of the body remains a mystery to scientists. Last year, two studies showed that genes continue to function in the days after people die.

Death may be defined differently by people when the religious, philosophical and various cultural perspectives are taken into account. Drawing the line between life and death is not a simple task.

The World Health Organization set international guidelines for declaring a patient dead, considering only the scientific, biological and medical aspects of death. The guideline describes death as that which occurs when a person permanently loses the capacity for consciousness that any type of help cannot restore and brainstem functions are lost as well. It may come when circulation ceases or after the brain is irreparably injured.

The researchers were careful in making far-reaching conclusions about brain activity after death since their observation was based on a small sample of just four patients. They recommended further investigation with a bigger sample.

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