cremations in Beltsville, MD

Understanding What “Dead” Means

Death happens before cremations in Beltsville, MD. However, there is more than one kind of death that can happen before people are officially declared dead.

One of these kinds of death is brain death. If there is no neurological activity, then a person is declared brain dead (which is considered being legally dead). However, through technology and medicine, the body can be kept alive, even though the brain is not functioning at all. For all intents and purposes, the body can be kept alive for years and years using artificial means.

Although it’s rare that people who have suffered brain death are kept on life support for an extended amount of time, it is very common for people who are brain dead to be kept alive for a short period of time, especially if they are organ donors, in order to keep the organs healthy until organ transplants can be arranged. When everything’s in place, then they are taken off life support, and the organs are harvested for transport to the recipients.

Another kind of death is circulatory death. This takes place when the heart stops beating, and blood stops circulating in the body to vital organs, including the brain (brain death can actually be the result of circulatory death). This is commonly known as cardiac arrest and, unless a person has a Do Not Resuscitate order in place, emergency responders or hospital staff will attempt to get the heart beating again, using CPR, adrenaline, and electric shock.

The longer the heart is not beating, the more likely that brain damage or brain death will occur (six minutes is the top amount of time that most medical experts say the brain can go before damage starts). If the heart is restarted before the brain dies completely, then significant brain damage has occurred, which leaves the person in a persistent vegetative state.

A persistent vegetative state is often referred to as “chronic wakefulness without awareness.” People in a persistent vegetative state are legally considered to be alive, so unless they have a living will that specifies that they don’t want any extraordinary measures taken, they are given feeding tubes and kept alive.

One of the most high-profile cases involving a persistent vegetative state was that of Terri Schiavo in the late part of the 20th century. Schiavo suffered cardiac arrest in 1990 and, as a result, was left with severe neurological damage before she was resuscitated. The hospital put a feeding tube in and kept her alive. Her parents and husband fought for 15 years to have the feeding tube removed because they all stated that Schiavo would not have wanted life prolonged with absolutely no chance of recovery (the 26-year-old did not have a living will, which is why it’s important for everyone to have one, regardless of age).

The state courts agreed with Schiavo’s husband and parents, but the Florida state legislature passed a bill that was known as Terri’s Law that gave then-Governor Jeb Bush the authority to prevent the feeding tube from being removed. The courts and the state legislature went back and forth, until Congress passed legislation that allowed the federal courts to intervene in the case. Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed on March 18, 2005, and she died 13 days later. The autopsy of her brain showed massive loss of neurons, with her brain weighing half of what a normal human brain weighs, and the medical examiner concluded that severe damage had left Schiavo blind and incapable or emotions or thinking.

If you’d like to learn about cremations in Beltsville, MD, you can talk with our knowledgeable team at Donald V. Borgwardt Funeral Home, P.A. You can visit our funeral home at 4400 Powder Mill Rd., Beltsville, MD, 20705, or you can call us today at (301) 937-1707.