Dr. Ronald E. Cranford, 65, a neurologist and brain injury expert died on Wednesday in Minneapolis. He had helped to establish clearer standards to determine whether a patient was in a deep coma or a vegetative state//.
According to his family the cause of death was complications of kidney cancer.
Dr. Cranford had long been an advocate for the right of terminally ill patients to end their lives. He was a bioethicist interested in the moral quandaries brought about by advances in medical technology.
He was especially well known because of his participation in some of the most contentious brain-injury cases including that of Terri Schiavo. As a professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota he had examined Ms. Schiavo and her brain scan in 2002, before her case hit headlines because of the debate over the extent of her brain injuries as well as her husband's request to withdraw life support.
After reviewing Ms. Schiavo's brain scan Dr Cranford had concluded that she was in a permanent vegetative state the condition in which the patient's eyes would remain open, without any evidence of awareness of self others or the surrounding environment, and yet having sleep-wake cycles. and was unlikely to recover.
Dr. Joseph J. Fins, a professor of medicine and the chief of the division of medical ethics at Cornell cited Dr. Cranford's contribution in preparing a more accurate description of comas and the vegetative state,
In 1994, the description, 'Medical Aspects of the Persistent Vegetative State,' was published in two parts in The New England Journal of Medicine and became 'the definitive statement in the field,' Dr. Fins said.
Dr. Cranford played a vital role in the case of Nancy Cruzan, who was injured in an automobile accident in 1983 that had resulted in her being left in a coma.
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