Lukas J. Meier
Cambridge University
Fifty years have passed since brain death was first proposed as a criterion of death. Its advocates believe that with the destruction of the brain, integrated functioning ceases irreversibly, somatic unity dissolves, and the organism turns into a corpse. In this article, I put forward two objections against this assertion. First, I draw parallels between brain death and other pathological conditions and argue that whenever one regards the absence or the artificial replacement of a certain function in these pathological conditions as compatible with organismic unity, then one equally ought to tolerate that function’s loss or replacement in brain death. Second, I show that the neurological criterion faces an additional problem that is only coming to light as life-supporting technology improves: the growing sophistication of the latter gives rise to a dangerous decoupling of the actual performance of a vital function from the retention of neurological control over it. Half a century after its introduction, the neurological criterion is facing the same fate as its cardiopulmonary predecessor.
Keywords Brain Death  Death  Persistent Vegetative State  Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome  Spinal Cord Transection  Hormones  Quadriplegia  Definition of Death
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Reprint years 2022
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axz045
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Brain Death: What We Are and When We Die.Lukas J. Meier - 2020 - Dissertation, University of St. Andrews

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