Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (2):99-103 (2020)

Lukas J. Meier
Cambridge University
When an individual is comatose while parts of her brain remain functional, the question arises as to whether any mental characteristics are still associated with this brain, that is, whether the person still exists. Settling this uncertainty requires that one becomes clear about two issues: the type of functional loss that is associated with the respective profile of brain damage and the persistence conditions of persons. Medical case studies can answer the former question, but they are not concerned with the latter. Conversely, in the philosophical literature, various accounts of personal identity are discussed, but usually detached from any empirical basis. Only uniting the two debates and interpreting the real-life configurations of brain damage through the lens of the philosophical concepts enables one to make an informed judgment regarding the persistence of comatose persons. Especially challenging are cases in which three mental characteristics that normally occur together—wakefulness, awareness and memory storage—come apart. These shall be the focus of this paper.
Keywords Coma  Brain Death  Personal Identity  John Locke  Consciousness  Persistent Vegetative State  Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome  Survival  Intensive Care  Death  Ascending Reticular Activating System
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1136/medethics-2019-105618
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,979
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Personal Identity.Derek Parfit - 1971 - Philosophical Review 80 (January):3-27.
Persons and Their Pasts.Sydney Shoemaker - 1970 - American Philosophical Quarterly 7 (4):269-85.
The Human Animal. Personal identity without psychology.Eric T. Olson - 1997 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 192 (1):112-113.

View all 18 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Brain Death: What We Are and When We Die.Lukas J. Meier - 2020 - Dissertation, University of St. Andrews

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Demise of Brain Death.Lukas J. Meier - 2022 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):487-508.
John Locke on Personal Identity.N. Nimbalkar - 2011 - Mens Sana Monographs 9 (1):268.
Persons and Psychological Frameworks: A Critique of Tye.Elizabeth Schechter - 2009 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 16 (2-3):141-163.
Metaphysical and Cultural Aspects of Persons.John Paul Lizza - 1991 - Dissertation, Columbia University
A Defense of Brain Death.Nada Gligorov - 2016 - Neuroethics 9 (2):119-127.
Lessons From Locke: Later Selves and Moral Personhood.Ben Arthur Rich - 1995 - Dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder


Added to PP index

Total views
58 ( #196,008 of 2,505,142 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
10 ( #74,004 of 2,505,142 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes