Defining Death: Beyond Biology
Selected contents from this journal
Languages of publication
The debate over whether brain death is death has focused on whether individuals who have sustained total brain failure have satisfied the biological definition of death as “the irreversible loss of the integration of the organism as a whole.” In this paper, I argue that what it means for an organism to be integrated “as a whole” is undefined and vague in the views of those who attempt to define death as the irreversible loss of the integration of the organism as a whole. I show how what it means for a living thing to be integrated as a whole depends on the sortal (kind) concept by which it is identified. Since interests, values, and ontological considerations besides strictly biological ones affect the concepts by which we individuate and identify living things, those non-biological considerations have a bearing on what it means for a particular kind of living thing to exist as a whole and thus what it means for one of us to die. Even if our bodies may remain organically integrated in some sense despite total brain failure, this fact should not lead us to reject brain death as death. Artificially sustained brain-dead human bodies are not human beings, but the remains of them. While such bodies may be alive in some sense, they are not human beings or human persons. They are not one of us.
- Bernat J.L. (2002), “The Biophilosophical Basis of Whole-Brain Death,” Social Philosophy and Policy 19 (2): 324–342.
- Bernat J.L. (2006), “The Whole-Brain Concept of Death Remains Optimum Public Policy,” Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 34 (1): 35-43.
- Callahan D. (1988), “The ‘Beginning’ of Human Life,” [in:] What Is a Person? M. Goodman (ed), The Humana Press, Clifton (NJ): 29–55.
- Chiong W. (2005), “Brain Death without Definitions,” Hastings Center Report 35 (6): 20–30.
- Cruzan, Nancy Beth, by her Parents and Co-Guardians, Lester L. Cruzan et ux. v. Director, Missouri Department of Health et al., 497 US 26, 1990.
- Condic M.L. (2016), “Determination of Death: A Scientific Perspective on Biological Integration,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 41 (3): 257–278.
- Engelhardt H.T. (1975), “Defining Death: A Philosophical Problem for Medicine and Law,” American Review of Respiratory Diseases 112 (5): 587–590.
- Geertz C. (1965), “The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man,” [in:] New Views on the Nature of Man, J.R. Platt (ed), University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 93–118.
- Gert B. (2006), “Matters of ‘Life’ and ‘Death,’” Letters, Hastings Center Report 36 (3): 4–6.
- Gert B., Culver C.M., Clouser K.D. (2006), Bioethics: A Systematic Approach, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Gervais K. (1986), Redefining Death, Yale University Press, New Haven.
- Green M., Wikler D. (1980), “Brain Death and Personal Identity,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 9 (2): 105–133.
- Jonas H. (1974), “Against the Stream: Comments on the Definition and Redefinition of Death,” [in:] Philosophical Essays: From Ancient Creed to Technological Man, H. Jonas, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs (NJ).
- Lizza J.P. (2005), “Potentiality, Irreversibility, and Death,” The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 30 (1): 45-64.
- Lizza J.P. (2006), Persons, Humanity, and the Definition of Death, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore (MD).
- Lizza J.P. (2006), “Matters of ‘Life’ and ‘Death,’” Letters, Hastings Center Report 36 (3): 4–6.
- Lizza J.P. (2009), “Is ‘Brain Death’ Death? Commentary on Papers Presented by Bernard Gert, D. Alan Shewmon, Robert Truog, Ari Joffe, and Donald Marquis at the Special Session Arranged by the APA Committee on Philosophy and Medicine at the APA Pacific Division Meeting, April 10, (2009),” American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Medicine 9 (1): 20–22.
- Lizza J.P. (2011), “Where’s Waldo? The ‘Decapitation Gambit’ and the Definition of Death,” Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (12): 743–746.
- Lizza J.P. (2014), “On the Ethical Relevance of Active versus Passive Potentiality,” [in:] Potentiality: Metaphysical and Bioethical Dimensions, J.P. Lizza (ed), The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore (MD): 250–269.
- Lizza J.P. (2016), “Elvis Ain’t Dead Until We Say So,” [in:] Death and Mortality – From Individual to Communal Perspectives, O. Hakola, S. Heinämaa, S. Pihlström (eds), Studiesnacross Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences 19, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Helsinki: 48–60.
- Lizza J.P. (2017), “Why DCD Donors Are Dead,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, forthcoming.
- Machado C. (1995), “A New Definition of Death Based on the Basic Mechanism of Consciousness Generation in Human Beings,” [in:] Brain Death: Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Brain Death, C. Machado (ed), Elsevier, Amsterdam.
- McMahan J. (2006), “An Alternative to Brain Death,” Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 34 (1): 44–48.
- Miller F., Truog R. (2014), Death, Dying, and Organ Transplantation, Oxford Univeristy Press, Oxford.
- President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1981), Defining Death: A Report on the Medical, Legal and Ethical Issues in the Determination of Death, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington (DC).
- President’s Council on Bioethics (2008), Controversies in the Determination of Death: A White Paper by the President’s Council on Bioethics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington (DC).
- Robertson J. (1999), “Delimiting the Donor: The Dead Donor Rule,” Hastings Center Report 29 (6): 6–14.
- Shah S.K., Miller F. (2010), “Can We Handle the Truth? Legal Fictions in the Determination of Death,” American Journal of Law and Medicine 36 (4): 540–585.
- Shewmon D.A. (1998), “Chronic ‘Brain Death’: Meta-analysis and Conceptual Consequences,” Neurology 51 (6): 1538–1545.
- Shewmon D.A. (2001), “The Brain and Somatic Integration: Insights into the Standard Biological Rationale for Equating ‘Brain Death’ with Death,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 26 (5): 457–478.
- Shewmon D.A. (2004), “The ‘Critical Organ’ for the ‘Organism as a Whole’: Lessons from the Lowly Spinal Cord,” [in:] Brain Death and Disorders of Consciousness, C. Machado, D.A. Shewmon (eds), Springer, New York: 23–41.
- Shewmon D.A. (2004), “The Dead Donor Rule: Lessons from Linguistics,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 14 (3): 277-300.
- Shewmon D.A. (2010), “Constructing the Death Elephant: A Synthetic Paradigm Shift for the Definition, Criteria, and Tests for Death,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35 (3): 256–298.
- Shewmon D.A. (2010), “Mental Disconnect: ‘Physiological Decapitation’ as a Heuristic for Understanding ‘Brain Death,’” [in:] The signs of death, M. Sanchez Sorondo (ed), Proceedings of the Working Group September 11–12, 2006 (Scripta Varia 110), Vatican City, Pontificia Academia Scientiarum.
- Shewmon D.A., Shewmon E.S. (2004), “The Semiotics of Death and its Medical Implications,” [in:] Brain Death and Disorders of Consciousness, C. Machado, D.A. Shewmon (eds), Springer, New York: 89–114.
- Tomlinson T. (2014), “The Irreversibility of Death: Metaphysical, Physiological, Medical or Ethical?” [in:] Potentiality: Metaphysical and Bioethical Dimensions, J. Lizza (ed), Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore (MD): 237–249.
- Veatch R. (1975), “The Whole-Brain Oriented Concept of Death: An Outmoded Philosophical Formulation,” Journal of Thanatology 3 (1): 13–30.
- Veatch R. (1993), “The Impending Collapse of the Whole-Brain Definition of Death,” Hastings Center Report 23 (4): 18–24.
- Veatch R. (2015), “Killing by Organ Procurement: Brain-Based Death and Legal Fictions,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 40 (3): 289–311.
Special Topic – Defining Death: Beyond Biology
Temat specjalny – Definiując śmierć: poza biologią
Publication order reference