The dead donor rule: Lessons from linguistics

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 14 (3):277-300 (2004)
: American society traditionally has assumed a univocal notion of "death," largely because we have only one word for it and, until recently, have not needed a more nuanced notion. The reality of death-processes does not preclude the reality of death events. Linguistically, "death" can be understood only as an event; there are other words for the process. Our death vocabulary should expand to reflect multiple events along the process from sickness to decomposition. Depending on context, some death-related events may constitute a more obvious discontinuity than others and more justifiably may be considered "death" within that context. There is no reason to assume a priori that there must be an overarching, unitary concept of death from which all diagnostic criteria must derive. Regarding organ transplantation, the relevant question is not "Is the patient dead?" but rather "Can organs X, Y, Z . . . be removed without causing or hastening death or harming the patient?"
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DOI 10.1353/ken.2004.0033
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