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U.S. Government Information on Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation
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Organ Donation and Brain Death

Individuals who are brain dead can be organ donors and their organs can be used for transplantation.

Brain death occurs when the brain is totally and irreversibly non-functional. Brain death is caused by not enough blood supply of oxygen which causes the brain cells to die.

When medical tests show a complete loss of brain function, the brain has died and the person is dead.

Brain death and a coma are not the same thing. It is possible for a person to recover from a coma. It is not possible to recover from brain death.

Brain death is most often caused by head trauma, a stroke, a ruptured aneurysm that causes bleeding in the brain, a gunshot wound, or drowning.

Of all the deaths in the United States each year, only 1%–2% are brain deaths.


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