Integrated But Not Whole? Applying an Ontological Account of Human Organismal Unity to the Brain Death Debate

Bioethics 30 (8):550-556 (2016)


As is clear in the 2008 report of the President's Council on Bioethics, the brain death debate is plagued by ambiguity in the use of such key terms as ‘integration’ and ‘wholeness’. Addressing this problem, I offer a plausible ontological account of organismal unity drawing on the work of Hoffman and Rosenkrantz, and then apply that account to the case of brain death, concluding that a brain dead body lacks the unity proper to a human organism, and has therefore undergone a substantial change. I also show how my view can explain hard cases better than one in which biological integration is taken to imply ontological wholeness or unity.

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Melissa Moschella
Catholic University of America

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