I'm about to begin a Masters research project about ICU nurses talking to brain-dead patients (oh the joys of ethics approval committees!). My interest in this started when I read 'Rethinking life and death' by ethicist Peter Singer - he described observing nurses in ICU talking to brain dead patients as though they were alive, and from that decided they did it because they didn't understand that the patients were clinically dead.
I think that nurses who talk to their brain dead patients do it for a variety of reasons, which may included (but are not limited) to issues about reconciling the apparently living body (sensory knowledge) with knowledge about brain death (intellectual knowledge). I don't work in ICU, though I do work on a nero unit; I always talk to the unconscious, and sometimes talk to patients who have died.
I was at a conference in the UK last year, and an ICU nurse educator said that she not only never talks to brain dead patients, she corrects any students who do. However, one of the anaesthetists there always
speaks to his brian dead patients. They're ruining my research!
What do you all think? This isn't something that will make it into my thesis, BTW, but I'm interested in what you think about the project idea, and about your own practice.