Chapter

Challenges to a Circulatory–Respiratory Criterion for Death

Franklin G. Miller and Robert D. Truog

in Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199739172
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918683 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199739172.003.0013
Challenges to a Circulatory–Respiratory Criterion for Death

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Chapter 4 is devoted to a critical consideration of brain-based objections to the sole reliance on the traditional criteria for determining death. Starting with the assumption that brain death constitutes physiological decapitation, some commentators have argued that it is absurd to maintain that brain dead bodies remain alive. We contend, however, that decapitation does not signify death, understood as the cessation of the functioning of the organism as a whole. In the second half of the chapter we critically examine the "higher brain" standard of death. According to this conception, "brain dead" individuals are dead not because they have ceased to function biologically but because they have irreversibly lost the capacity for consciousness. The higher brain standard founders for both theoretical and practical reasons: it depends on the inherently vague and contested concept of personhood; and no reliable criteria are available for diagnosing the irreversible absence of consciousness.

Keywords: decapitation; higher brain standard; consciousness; personhood; persistent vegetative state

Chapter.  7751 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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