Social Philosophy and Policy



THE BIOPHILOSOPHICAL BASIS OF WHOLE-BRAIN DEATH


James L.  Bernat  a1
a1 Neurology, Dartmouth Medical School

Notwithstanding these wise pronouncements, my project here is to characterize the biological phenomenon of death of the higher animal species, such as vertebrates. My claim is that the formulation of “whole-brain death” provides the most congruent map for our correct understanding of the concept of death. This essay builds upon the foundation my colleagues and I have laid since 1981 to characterize the concept of death and refine when this event occurs. Although our society's well-accepted program of multiple organ procurement for transplantation requires the organ donor first to be dead, the concept of brain death is not merely a social contrivance to permit us to obtain the benefits of organ procurement. Rather, the concept of whole-brain death stands independently as the most accurate biological representation of the demise of the human organism.



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