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Theories Of Death Essay

983 words - 4 pages

Back before the 1950’s, medical practitioners followed the cardiopulmonary standard when it came to determining death. This standard is the idea that death is an irreversible loss of respiratory and circulatory functions. Then artificial respiration was introduced in the 1950’s which changed the cardiopulmonary standard to the one that is commonly accepted today, the brain death standard. Brain death is the thought that a person is dead once he/she has no ability to perform life-sustaining functions. However, today many are trying to push the neocortical death standard, which states that a person is dead once they lose higher brain functioning (i.e. consciousness, cognition, and complex social interaction). This includes those who are in a vegetative state and anencephalic infants. First I will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the brain death and neocortical standards, and then I will state why I believe the brain death standard to be the more logical view when it comes to determining death as opposed to the neocortical death standard.
Based on the organismic definition of death, a person is dead once they have a cessation of critical functions. Since the brain is the control center of all critical functions in our body, it is then easy to state that death is the same as brain death. One advantage of the brain death standard is that it allows for the harvesting of organs due to the use of artificial respiration and circulation, which is the main reason for being able to harvest organs. Another advantage is that the diagnosis of being brain dead is certain once the patient is comatose, unlike a patient being in a vegetative state where the brain can still perform certain critical functions without any assistance and the patient still has a chance of waking up. The one disadvantage to the brain death view is that it is very costly to the families who have to pay for life support, when the neocortical death view would cost less since life support would not have to be used for the same extended period of time. However, the idea that there is a chance, although small that the person may wake up seems to be a better alternative than to pulling the plug when no one is one hundred percent certain that the person is completely dead.
The neocortical death standard states that death occurs when higher brain functioning is no longer happening, such as consciousness. What many believe to be the definition of a person is a conscious being who has self-awareness, memory, and rationality, which fits in with the neocortical death view. Though, I find one flaw in this view. If we were to base what a person should be on the fact that they must have higher brain functioning, then that would mean someone who was born with a birth defect causing them to not have the capacity to be self-aware, be able to interact in...

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