Do medical students understand brain death? A survey study

J Surg Educ. May-Jun 2012;69(3):320-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2011.11.009. Epub 2012 Jan 17.

Abstract

Background: A lack of understanding of brain death has been demonstrated among physicians, and may stem from knowledge deficits at the medical school level. The authors sought to evaluate current understanding of brain death and knowledge gaps among U.S. medical students at a single center.

Methods: Using a validated "Understanding Brain Death" survey tool, the authors surveyed the student body at an accredited four year medical school. A score of 5/5 on this scale indicated an expert level of understanding. The investigators identified areas of knowledge gaps, and compared brain death expertise throughout the curriculum progression.

Results: The overall response rate was 69% (212 of 306 students). Mean scores were 3.1, 3.9, 4.1, and 4.0 (out of 5) among first through fourth year classes respectively. Understanding of brain death differed across the medical school classes (p <0.0001). 33% (N=70) of all students attained scores of 5 indicating an expert level of understanding brain death. By class; 18% of first year students demonstrated expert levels of understanding, compared to 31% of second year students, 48% of third year students, and 39% of fourth year students.

Conclusions: The level of understanding of brain death is low among the student body in a four year accredited U.S. medical school. This knowledge gap persists among graduating students as most do not attain an expert understanding of brain death. A more comprehensive brain death curriculum should be implemented in order to adequately equip physicians with this fundamental knowledge.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Death
  • Brain Death*
  • Comprehension*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment
  • Students, Medical*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement
  • United States
  • Young Adult