When an American President “Loses It”
It has happened, of course—and not infrequently. Just in this century, American presidents who continued to serve in ofﬁce while seriously neurologically impaired include Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the ﬁrst two, there is a credible historical case that the results were catastrophic on a world scale. But the real question is: Could it happen again? Neurologist James Toole headed a Working Group on Presidential Disability, established in 1994 at the invitation of former President Jimmy Carter and Atlanta’s Carter Center, that made strong recommendations for guarding against a recurrence, but little has been done. As a result, says Dr. Toole, a time bomb (or a somewhat larger explosive) is ticking away. There are steps that would be simple—though not politically easy—to implement.
Brain Death in an Age of Heroic Medicine
When the technology of heart transplantation and life-support machines overtook the traditionally accepted criterion of death—cessation of heartbeat—an alternative criterion emerged. Irreversible loss of brain function, or “brain death,” for all the debates and recent attacks it has provoked, has worked well as a determinant of death, argues Dr. Guy McKhann.