Brain-Based Definition and Determination of Death in Canada

November 15th, 2023
8 pm ET

Access Recording

Certificate of Attendance

This event is an Accredited Group Learning Activity (Section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification program of The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and approved by the Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society. You may claim a maximum of 1 hour (credits are automatically calculated). 

In April 2023 the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia published a special issue developed around a Clinical Practice Guideline update for death determination, titled “A brain-based definition of death and criteria for its determination after arrest of circulation or neurologic function in Canada: a 2023 clinical practice guideline”. A 60-person multidisciplinary panel consisting of critical care nurses and physicians (adult and pediatric), radiologists, neurologists, neurointensivists, anesthesiologists, ethicists, lawyers, patient families and public partners, as well as methodologists from across Canada used a rigorous process to develop a unified brain-based definition of death and update the criteria for its determination after devastating brain injury or circulatory arrest. This guideline replaces previously published Canadian recommendations for defining and determining death, and includes recommendations for medical, legal and ethical practices as well as guidance for how to compassionately communicate with families during the tragic loss of a loved one.  

To learn about the new definition and its implications for your practice, please join us for a webinar where Dr Sam Shemie, the leader of the multidisciplinary panel, discusses the guideline update. 

Brain-Based Definition and Determination of Death in Canada      

Learning Objectives:  

After participating in this activity, participants will be able to: 

1. discuss how all death has been defined based on the permanent cessation of brain function 

2. describe the relationship between the arrest of circulation and arrest of brain function 

3. identify key differences in death by neurological criteria from previous guidelines.  


Dr Sam Shemie
Critical Care, Montreal Childrens Hospital, McGill University


Dr. Shemie’s area of interest is organ replacement during critical illness and the continuum between life, death and oxygen delivery. He is a pediatric critical care physician, ECMO specialist and trauma team leader at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, McGill University Health Centre. He is a Professor of Pediatrics at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, McGill University and honourary staff in the Department of Critical Care Medicine, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto. He is medical advisor, deceased organ donation, with Canadian Blood Services. His academic focus is advancing the science and practice of deceased organ donation. His research interests include the clinical and policy impact of organ failure support technologies, the development and implementation of national ICU-based leading practices in organ donation and research at the intersection of end-of-life care, death determination and deceased donation. 


Dr Stephan Schwarz
Canadian Journal of Anesthesia, Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Stephan Schwarz obtained his primary medical degree from the University of Göttingen/Germany, where he also completed a postgraduate research doctorate in medicine. In 1995, he came to Vancouver/Canada to pursue a PhD in Pharmacology & Therapeutics under Drs. Ernie Puil & Bernard MacLeod at The University of British Columbia (UBC). This was followed by completion of a residency in anesthesia as well as the Royal College of Physician and Surgeons of Canada Clinician Investigator Program (CIP). In 2004, he became member of the anesthesia staff at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital, where he subsequently was appointed Anesthesia Research Director, a role which he served for three terms. Simultaneously, he was appointed as Associate Professor in the UBC Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, where he was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in 2011, and Professor in 2017.
Dr. Schwarz has been a member of the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society (CAS) since 1996 and has served on the CAS Research Advisory Committee, the CAS Grant Adjudication Subcommittee, and the CAS Ethics Committee. He was appointed to the Editorial Board of the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia in 2014 and has served as the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief since January 1, 2021.