Whither Brain Death?

The American Journal of Bioethics, 14:8, 3-8, (2014) DOI:10.1080/15265161.2014.925153

James L. Bernat

The publicity surrounding the recent McMath and Muñoz cases has rekindled public interest in brain death: the familiar term for human death determination by showing the irreversible cessation of clinical brain functions. The concept of brain death was developed decades ago to permit withdrawal of therapy in hopeless cases and to permit organ donation. It has become widely established medical practice, and laws permit it in all U.S. jurisdictions. Brain death has a biophilosophical justification as a standard for determining human death but remains poorly understood by the public and by health professionals. The current controversies over brain death are largely restricted to the academy, but some practitioners express ambivalence over whether brain death is equivalent to human death. Brain death remains an accepted and sound concept, but more work is necessary to establish its biophilosophical justification and to educate health professionals and the public. [Full text]

 

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