The Newsroom    Published Monday, Mar. 13, 2006, 1:44 PM
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Slowing down brain is still fraught with risk

Washington Post (Internet / Print) 03/13/06 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/12/AR2006031200818.html When a doctor utters the word "coma," the prognosis is usually bleak. Yet every day, physicians intentionally put patients into comas. Despite great advances in modern medicine, there are still few options for treating severe brain injuries such as those caused by a blow to the head, a stroke or constant seizures. Physicians can try draining fluid or raising the head of the patient's bed to alleviate potentially fatal swelling. But if those efforts fail, they sometimes decide to push patients to the precipice, as close to brain death as humanly possible. Some medical experts, however, say drug-induced coma is an experimental treatment with little data behind it. "We're clear about what is therapy and we're clear about what counts as research, but experimentation falls in between the two," said Ronald Carson, an ethicist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "There are risks involved in doing something, as well as risks involved in doing nothing. We don't know what the person is going to be like at the other end."



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