David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 9 (4):377-394 (1984)
The whole brain-death criterion of death now enjoys a wide acceptance both within the medical profession and among the general public. That acceptance is in large part the product of the contention that brain death is the proper criterion for even a conservative definition of death – the irreversible loss of the integrated functioning of the organism as a whole. This claim – most recently made in the report of the Presidential Commission and in a comprehensive article by James Bernat and others – is based upon a series of fallacious arguments. Chief among these is the argument that whole brain-death is the proper criterion for the conservative definition because the brain is the organ that integrates the rest of the organism. A central part of the paper shows that this argument rests upon a confusion between a function and the mechanism that performs it, and replies to the defenses that the Presidential Commission makes on this point. The concluding portion of the paper argues that this issue is not merely of academic interest, but has the potential for undermining the present consensus that supports the use of whole brain-death criteria. * Keywords: brain-death, definition of death, determination of death * I would like to thank Howard Brody and Bruce Miller for helpful suggestions and criticisms. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
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