Determination of Death: A Scientific Perspective on Biological Integration

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

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

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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.

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