Wednesday, November 7

Interpreting for Brain Death Situations

Brain Dead, what does it mean?
Lack of blood flow to the brain, thus brain does not receive oxygen. If brain does not receive oxygen for approximately four minutes then brain is dead. California law states that patient must have no brain activity in order to be declared brain dead. Furthermore, brain death is irreversible. It is not to be confused with “coma” which is an entirely different medical state which is reversible.

How long can someone be “brain dead” before their body shuts down?
If someone is young and healthy, up to four days; an elderly or sick individual, up to two days or less.

How does this affect Interpreters?
Brain death is a sensitive and difficult concept to explain, especially to non-western cultures. Most available medical literature is not written in a culturally sensitive perspective which may influence the way the medical staff will explain concept to family. This is where the interpreter will act as a cultural clarifier and explain sensitivity to medical staff.

Terms or expressions:
The expression “Vegetable state” should be avoided at all cost. It is equivalent to a racial slur because it is demeaning/comparing a human/human life to a vegetable. The correct expression is “Vegetative state,” however it is a complicated expression which is also discouraged. Medical staff should offer an explanation of what Brain death means instead of simply using unintelligible terms.

Other terms to know:
Durable Power of Attorney
Advance Directive
Next of Kin

What exams are performed to determine brain death?
Neurological exam
Pupil Dilation
Cold Calorics
CT Scan

For Further Information Please See: