The average score was 80%.
Respondents seemed most familiar with the concept of brain death, which refers to the complete absence of brain function on neurological exams. It is the medically and legally accepted determination of human death in the U.S. The average score was 91% on the two questions focused specifically on this term.
The highest number of respondents had difficulty with the two questions involving the term “vegetative state,” which means the patient cannot think, reason, respond, do anything on purpose, chew or swallow. A vegetative state is typically considered permanent after three months if caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, and after more than 12 months if caused by traumatic brain injury. The average score for this term was 68%.
Finally, 86% of respondents correctly answered questions about minimally conscious states, and 74% responded correctly to a question about comas.
Just for indulging us by taking the quiz, everyone gets an A+. Here are the evaluations of two experts:
“Several prior surveys measuring public and professional understanding of brain death, coma and the vegetative state showed a high degree of misunderstanding, said Dr. James Bernat, a neurology professor at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine. “Therefore, these results suggest that the test group better understood these concepts.”
Bioethicist Art Caplan was less impressed. “The results are better than I might have expected, but still troubling,” Caplan said. “If 9% of respondents did not understand brain death, that means there are thousands of chances for confusion in the U.S. every year. It also means being very careful in terms of explaining what is going on with patients.”
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