One of the blurring lines between life and death is something that you write about when a pregnant woman is declared brain-dead. She can be kept on life support for the sake of the child that she's carrying, depending on how advanced the pregnancy is. And, you know, there have been instances where the woman has been kept on life support until the baby can be delivered. How often does that happen? DICK TERESI: Since about 1981, it's happened 22 times. There have been 22 women kept on life support after they're declared brain-dead and who gave birth. GROSS: And how does that blur the line between life and death? TERESI: Well, I would just think that gestating a baby and giving birth is a sign of life. GROSS: Let's start with a story that you tell at the beginning of the book, the story of a patient in an ICU unit. She's declared brain-dead. Then what happens? TERESI: Well, the interesting thing about being declared brain-dead is that the expression pull the plug is not really applicable. They do pull the plug in the final stage of the exam for brain-death, which is to say they disconnect the ventilator to see if the patient can breathe on her own, and in this case she couldn't. And because she could not breathe on her own, she didn't gasp for air. That means she's officially brain-dead. What happens then is that the ventilator is re-connected. It has to be reconnected if this person's organs are going to be harvested because the whole point of brain-death is to select people for organ donation who are mostly dead. They're still a little bit alive, meaning that you turn the ventilator back on, the lungs will continue to work, she'll continue to breathe, her heart will then restart, continue to pump blood, keeping the organs fresh for transplant.
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