Determination of Death: A Scientific Perspective on Biological Integration

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 41 (3):257-278 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Human life is operationally defined by the onset and cessation of organismal function. At postnatal stages of life, organismal integration critically and uniquely requires a functioning brain. In this article, a distinction is drawn between integrated and coordinated biologic activities. While communication between cells can provide a coordinated biologic response to specific signals, it does not support the integrated function that is characteristic of a living human being. Determining the loss of integrated function can be complicated by medical interventions that uncouple elements of the natural biologic hierarchy underlying our intuitive understanding of death. Such medical interventions can allow living human beings who are no longer able to function in an integrated manner to be maintained in a living state. In contrast, medical intervention can also allow the cells and tissues of an individual who has died to be maintained in a living state. To distinguish between a living human being and living human cells, two criteria are proposed: either the persistence of any form of brain function or the persistence of autonomous integration of vital functions. Either of these criteria is sufficient to determine a human being is alive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 74,310

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Are Brain Dead Individuals Dead? Grounds for Reasonable Doubt.E. Christian Brugger - 2016 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 41 (3):329-350.
Death in Denmark.M. Evans - 1990 - Journal of Medical Ethics 16 (4):191-194.
Decapitation and the Definition of Death.F. G. Miller & R. D. Truog - 2010 - Journal of Medical Ethics 36 (10):632-634.
The Metaphysics of Brain Death.Jeff Mcmahan - 1995 - Bioethics 9 (2):91–126.


Added to PP

57 (#205,175)

6 months
10 (#79,916)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

Brain Death as the End of a Human Organism as a Self-Moving Whole.Adam Omelianchuk - 2021 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 46 (5):530-560.
Death, Unity and the Brain.David S. Oderberg - 2019 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 40 (5):359-379.
How (Not) to Think of the ‘Dead-Donor’ Rule.Adam Omelianchuk - 2018 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 39 (1):1-25.

View all 23 citations / Add more citations