Intended for healthcare professionals


Chris Pallis

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 14 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:908

Neurologist who defined brainstem death

On 13 October 1980 the BBC current affairs programme Panorama broadcast a report called “Transplants—Are the Donors Really Dead?” It alleged that patients certified as brain dead sometimes recovered, and hence that the supply of transplantable organs was skewed by doctors wanting to remove organs from trauma patients who might have recovered. The programme angered doctors as few programmes have done before or since and engendered massive publicity.

Chris Pallis stepped into the centre of this controversy. As a neurologist with a strong interest in general medicine, and working in a hospital that was a transplant centre, he was accustomed to diagnosing brain death. He was, moreover, an outstanding writer and teacher. He took on the unenviable job of persuading the profession and the public that brainstem death was true death, and, indeed, that it could be diagnosed at the bedside without the need for high-tech imaging. He was the author of the BMJ's ABC of …

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