Reel Doctor Talk

You might think I'm crazy

by Smitha R. Chadaga MD


Today's political landscape has made most TV seem tame. But Michelle and Robert King have managed to top the current beltway antics on their new show BrainDead (@BrainDeadCBS).  The dramedy focuses on a present day Washington D.C. that is mired in grid lock because alien insects are invading the brains of political leaders.  But would alien insects invading the brain lead to brain death? What does it mean to be brain dead? Current guidelines make no mention of alien insects.


Specific criteria need to be met to declare a patient brain dead. Some of these criteria are to help assure that when testing is done on the brain nothing is interfering with brain function (or lack of function):

1.  Irreversible neurologic damage to the brain

2.  No presence of any toxins or chemicals

3.  Normal body temperature

4.  Normal blood pressure

5.  Neurological testing consistent with brain death


There are a few different types of neurologic test that can be done to confirm brain death.  States and countries can differ on how many tests are needed to make the pronouncement.  Most require one of the following:

1.  Lack of responsiveness – the brain does respond to noxious stimuli

2.  Lack of brainstem responses – eyes don’t respond to bright light, cornea doesn’t respond to stimulation, stimulating the back of the throat doesn’t induce a gag

3.  Lack of breathing – over minutes


Once these criteria are met a patient can be declared brain dead. If the above needs to be confirmed, then physicians can look at the blood flow to the brain or check the brain’s electrical activity.


Given what is going on in the world maybe alien insects aren’t so bad.  Even if it means this has to happen: