The difference between a vegetative state and brain death

The similarity between vegetative and brain-dead patients lies in the fact that both are unresponsive to the external environment.
However, the major difference between the two is that the former still retains some function of the hypothalamus and brainstem, has spontaneous breathing and sleep and wake cycles, and recent studies suggest that a small number of vegetative patients may even be conscious, and that these residual functions may allow them to survive for a long time with adequate medical care.
Brain death, on the other hand, is the loss of all brain function, followed by short-term failure of other organs and eventual cardiac arrest.

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