Abstract
The definition of death is one of the oldest and most enduring problems in biophilosophy and bioethics. Serious controversies over formally defining death began with the invention of the positive-pressure mechanical ventilator in the 1950s. For the first time, physicians could maintain ventilation and, hence, circulation on patients who had sustained what had been previously lethal brain damage. Prior to the development of mechanical ventilators, brain injuries severe enough to induce apnea quickly progressed to cardiac arrest from hypoxemia. Before the 1950s, the loss of spontaneous breathing and heartbeat were perfect predictors of death because the functioning of the brain and of all other organs ceased rapidly and nearly simultaneously thereafter, producing a unitary death phenomenon. In the pretechnological era, physicians and philosophers did not have to consider whether a human being who had lost certain “vital functions” but had retained others was alive, because such cases were technically impossible.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1748-720x.2006.00006.x
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References found in this work BETA

Defining Death.William Charlton - forthcoming - Wiley: New Blackfriars.
Is It Time to Abandon Brain Death?Robert D. Truog - 1997 - Hastings Center Report 27 (1):29-37.
Brain Death and Personal Identity.Michael B. Green & Daniel Wikler - 1980 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 9 (2):105-133.

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Citations of this work BETA

Public Reason.Jonathan Quong - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Death, Unity and the Brain.David S. Oderberg - 2019 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 40 (5):359-379.

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