Journal of Medical Ethics 36 (10):632-634 (2010)
Although established in the law and current practice, the determination of death according to neurological criteria continues to be controversial. Some scholars have advocated return to the traditional circulatory and respiratory criteria for determining death because individuals diagnosed as ‘brain dead’ display an extensive range of integrated biological functioning with the aid of mechanical ventilation. Others have attempted to refute this stance by appealing to the analogy between decapitation and brain death. Since a decapitated animal is obviously dead, and ‘brain death’ represents physiological decapitation, brain dead individuals must be dead. In this article we refute this ‘decapitation gambit.’ We argue that decapitated animals are not necessarily dead, and that, moreover, the analogy between decapitation and the clinical syndrome of brain death is flawed
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