Commentary on the Concept of Brain Death within the Catholic Bioethical Framework

Christian Bioethics 16 (3):246-256 (2010)

Michael Potts
University of Georgia
Since the introduction of the concept of brain death by the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death in 1968, the validity of this concept has been challenged by medical scientists, as well as by legal, philosophical, and religious scholars. In light of increased criticism of the concept of brain death, Stephen Napier, a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, set out to prove that the whole-brain death criterion serves as good evidence for death in the Catholic bioethical framework, on the grounds that when whole-brain death has occurred the soul has already departed from the body. Opponents have argued that (1) brain death does not disrupt the somatic integrative unity and coordinated biological functioning of a living organism and (2) clinical tests outlined in the practice guidelines for determining brain death lack sufficient power to exclude persisting function and fail to detect elements of the brain that, although currently functionless, may retain potential for recovery under conditions of optimal medical care. It is therefore possible that heart-beating organ procurement from patients with impaired consciousness is de facto a concealed practice of active euthanasia and physician-assisted death, both of which, either concealed or overt, the Catholic Church opposes
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DOI 10.1093/cb/cbq019
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Brain Death - Too Flawed to Endure, Too Ingrained to Abandon.Robert D. Truog - 2007 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 35 (2):273-281.
Brain Death: Can It Be Resuscitated?D. Alan Shewmon - 2009 - Hastings Center Report 39 (2):18-24.
Brain Death — Too Flawed to Endure, Too Ingrained to Abandon.Robert D. Truog - 2007 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 35 (2):273-281.

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