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

Authors
Lukas J. Meier
Cambridge University
Abstract
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
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DOI 10.1136/medethics-2019-105618
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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.

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Citations of this work BETA

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

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