Potentiality, irreversibility, and death

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 30 (1):45 – 64 (2005)
There has been growing concern about whether individuals who satisfy neurological criteria for death or who become non-heart-beating organ donors are really dead. This concern has focused on the issue of the potential for recovery that these individuals may still have and whether their conditions are irreversible. In this article I examine the concepts of potentiality and irreversibility that have been invoked in the discussions of the definition of death and non-heart-beating organ donation. I initially focus on the recent challenge by D. Alan Shewmon to accepting any neurological criterion of death. I argue that Shewmon relies on a problematic and unrealistic concept of potentiality, and that a better, more realistic concept of potentiality is consistent with accepting a neurological criterion for death. I then turn to an analysis of how the concept of irreversibility has been used in discussion of non-heart-beating organ donation. Similarly, I argue that some participants in this discussion have invoked a problematic and unrealistic concept of irreversibility. I then propose an alternative, more realistic account of irreversibility that explains how "irreversibility" should be understood in the definition and criteria of death
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/03605310590907057
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,479
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Willard V. O. Quine (1951). Two Dogmas of Empiricism. Philosophical Review 60 (1):20–43.

View all 20 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

47 ( #103,552 of 1,925,766 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

10 ( #87,728 of 1,925,766 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.