Brain life and brain death – the anencephalic as an explanatory example. A contribution to transplantation
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 14 (1):5-23 (1989)
The current debate regarding the suitability of anencephalics as organ donors is due primarily to misunderstandings. The anatomical and neurophysiological literature shows that the anencephalic lacks a cerebrum because of the failure of neuralplate fusion. However, even the incomplete function of an atrophic brain stem is currently accepted at law in most if not all countries as sufficient for brain life: which is to say, cessation of breathing is currently required in order to make the diagnosis of brain death. Because of the extensive incompleteness of the anencephalic's brain, it is not possible to postpone death significantly by mechanical ventilation and intravenous feeding. It is acceptable to maintain life for a short period of time in order to allow organ transplantation subsequent to the declaration of death at the point of cessation of the capacity for spontaneous respiration. The most important issue is not transplantation, but the issue of brain life raised by the case of anencephalics. Since brain life in any significant sense begins only after the closure of the neural tube on the 30th day after conception, it is reasonable to take this as the point at which brain life begins. Laws should be amended in all countries to allow the abortion of anencephalics at any time, in that they do not at any time possess brain life. Keywords: anencephaly, organ transplantation, beginning of life, brain death, abortion CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
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