Towards a holistic definition of death: the biological, philosophical and social deficiencies of brain stem death criteria

The New Bioethics 25 (2):172-184 (2019)
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With no statutory definition of death, the accepted medical definition relies on brain stem death criteria as a definitive measure of diagnosing death. However, the use of brain stem death criteria in this way is precarious and causes widespread confusion amongst both medical and lay communities. Through critical analysis, this paper considers the insufficiencies of brain stem death. It concludes that brain stem death cannot be successfully equated with either biological death or the loss of integrated bodily function. The overemphasis of the brain-stem and its consequences leaves the criteria open to significant philosophical critique. Further, in some circumstances, the use of brain stem death criteria causes substantial emotional conflict for families and relatives. Accordingly, a more holistic and comprehensive definition of death is required.



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References found in this work

The Astonishing Hypothesis.Francis Crick & J. Clark - 1994 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 1 (1):10-16.
An Alternative to Brain Death.Jeff McMahan - 2006 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 34 (1):44-48.

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