pekover (pekover) wrote in little_details,

Keeping a brain dead patient 'alive'

terms searched: permanent vegetative state, coma, brain dead, withdrawing life support, euthanasia

I have a character that I want to be essentially dead, but kept functioning for about a year (the decision to pull the plug is a major plot point). I don't want there to be any real intellectual controversy about the decision, I just want it to be emotionally difficult.

So, I'm thinking the character has had a head injury leading to brain death, but the more I read, it seems like keeping a brain dead person on life support for a full year would generally be considered a bit inhumane. So my questions are:

1) How common is it for a brain dead patient to be on life support for about a year?

2) Is there anything less 'severe' than brain death that would be more appropriate for this situation? I was looking at permanent vegetative state, but people apparently sometimes recover from that, so a year doesn't seem long enough to wait in that situation. And I'd like to avoid the trauma of withholding feeding, etc. if possible - I'd like it to just be a 'pull the plug' type situation.

3) If brain death seems like the way to go, what would the patient's body be like after about a year? I found some effects of long-term paralysis and coma, but would the effects be the same for a brain dead patient?

So, in summary - an injury a year ago, kept in stasis for a year, now deciding to let him go. Characters doing the deciding are emotionally involved and therefore not totally rational, but not totally insane either. What details do I need to know?

Thanks very much for any help!
Tags: ~medicine: coma, ~medicine: injuries: head injuries

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