After a horrific auto accident, you may have to make the decision to end life support for a loved one. It is a very difficult situation and a choice that is not easy to make. Besides the emotions of the situation and the unexpected circumstances that you now find yourself in, you must make the decision with a full understanding of the situation.

It is possible with modern medicine to keep someone alive even though they are technically and legally dead. If you want to avoid prolonging suffering and allow your loved one to move on, knowing how the law defines death is helpful.

The West Virginia Legislature defines death in agreement with accepted medical standards. Death may occur in one of two ways. The first is the complete failure of the brain, including the brain stem. The second is the complete failure of the respiratory and circulatory systems.

To further explain, the first type of death would be a doctor diagnosing your loved one as brain dead. It means there is no brain activity and no chance that there will ever be brain activity again. It must be irreversible to meet standards for brain death.

The second type of death requires your loved one to have no function of the heart and lungs. Generally, when the heart stops, it also stops the lungs from functioning. This, again, must be irreversible. Having your heart stop alone is not enough to declare someone dead if it is possible to get the heart beating again.

Making the decision to end life supporting measures is never easy. However, if someone disagrees with your decision and your loved one meets the legal requirement of death, then a court could step in and require the end of life support.