Definition Of Death Essay

1032 words - 5 pages

The determination of death has become extremely complicated and confusing; even some medical experts find it hard to put it in words. A history professor at the University of Michigan, Martin S. Pernick explains this scenario in his work to show the inconsistency in the medical standard for clinical determination of death. In one of his lectures, Henry K. Beecher, Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain-Death, said in his 1970 lecture, “There is a need to move death to the side of the individual’s consciousness, and if loss of consciousness is permanent, then to declare death.” A priest asked in the discussion following this lecture ...view middle of the document...

in The President’s Council on Bioethics 50).
Some philosophers, scholars, physicians and other medical professionals find it hard to accept a definition of death on the basis of organismic “wholeness.” First of all, According to D. Alan Shewmon, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of California, the concept of “wholeness” is confusing criteria which have never been defined. If we were to consider an organismic “wholeness” in the sense of “entity” a mere sum of all working body parts as said by The President’s Council, then Shewmon claims that amputees would not be living organisms (20). Now the question is what constitutes being a “whole” as an organism? When we are talking about the definition of death, we cannot overlook Friar Laurence’s description of Juliet’s appearance after she died. Dr David J Hill, a retired consultant anesthetist, uses lines “no pulse,” “[t]he roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade,” and “[n]o warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest” to depict a contradiction between traditional, sixteenth century description of death-- no regulated body temperature, no breath, and no natural body color with today’s “neurological minutiae” (Hill “Opposing” 2 of 2). Furthermore, Verheijde, Rady and McGregor pronounce that although brain-dead patients have no blood flow in the brain, they still retain beating hearts and circulation throughout the body. Brain dead patients maintain some functions including “wound healing, body temperature regulation, growth of puberty, reproduction, successful completion of pregnancies and delivery of healthy infants” that are indistinguishable from a living human being (Verheijde, Rady, and McGregor 411). One might ask, which physiological responses are significant to consider someone dead? Truog, Robinson, and Shewmon claim that it is hard to understand why we place great emphasis on “self-perseveration, achieved through the organism’s need-driven commerce with the surrounding world” rather than bodily functions at a “holistic level” (Shewmon 20) such as “pupillary light and corneal reflexes” (neurological standard) and “neurological salt and water homeostasis” and “self-development” of an embryo (Truog and Robinson...

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