When a patient dies
Sadly a person’s injuries can be so severe that they do not survive. They could die in the early days after the brain injury or at a later stage if complications arise.
Sometimes the medical team’s assessment is that no recovery is possible. In some cases treatment may be withdrawn or limited if it is felt that continuing is not in the person’s best interest.
These situations are extremely distressing. You will be included in any decisions about limiting or withdrawing treatment and the team caring for your relative will support you at this difficult time. Further support is available from the Palliative Care team who are skilled in caring for people who are dying and their families.
Support can also be given by the hospitals Chaplaincy Team. Discuss this with the staff on the ward and they can contact them for you.
Brain stem death
In some cases the injury is so severe that the part of the brain that controls basic functions, such as breathing and consciousness, is irreparably damaged. This is known as brain stem death. The person could not survive without being on a ventilator.
If the team think brainstem death has occurred, they will need to perform specialised tests to confirm this. There are strict legal requirements governing these tests. Before taking any action the team will talk to you and fully explain the process.
If brain stem death is confirmed then the patient can legally be declared dead. Although ventilation/life support will eventually be withdrawn, you will be able to spend time with your loved one before this happens. Talk to the staff if you would like other people to be present when treatment is withdrawn
It is sometimes possible for a person’s organs to be donated for transplant. A team of specialist nurses can give you information and support so it is important to let staff know this is something you are considering as soon as possible.
Practical arrangements after death
The Bereavement Service at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust is always informed when a patient dies. They will contact the next of kin to provide support and help them make arrangements.