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Death, Dying, and Organ TransplantationReconstructing Medical Ethics at the End of Life$
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Franklin G. Miller and Robert D. Truog

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199739172

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199739172.001.0001

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Challenges to a Circulatory–Respiratory Criterion for Death

Challenges to a Circulatory–Respiratory Criterion for Death

Chapter:
4 Challenges to a Circulatory–Respiratory Criterion for Death
Source:
Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation
Author(s):

Franklin G. Miller

Robert D. Truog

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199739172.003.0013

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

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