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Bioethics and the Brain$
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Walter Glannon

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195307788

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195307788.001.0001

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 Brain Death

 Brain Death

Chapter:
(p.148) 6 Brain Death
Source:
Bioethics and the Brain
Author(s):

Walter Glannon (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195307788.003.0006

This chapter defends a narrow neurological criterion of death, which says that the permanent cessation of higher brain, or cortical, function is sufficient for the death of a person. It distinguishes between persons and human organisms, and argues that we are essentially persons rather than organisms. This distinction is elaborated by considering different conceptions of the soul, as well as different perspectives on when the soul leaves the body. It is argued that only persons, and not human organisms, can have interests. The capacity for consciousness is necessary to have interests, and this capacity is an essential property of persons but not of human organisms. Insofar as benefit and harm are defined in terms of the satisfaction or defeat of interests, only persons can benefit or be harmed. This argument is critical for exploring the ethical implications of brain death. It is particularly critical for analyzing ethical questions about the permissibility or impermissibility of such actions as withdrawing life-support and procuring organs for transplantation.

Keywords:   brain dead, higher brain function, soul, persons, human organisms, consciousness, interests

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