Controversies in the Determination of Death

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PHIL 1165
July 19, 2012
First Paper

In 2008, the President’s Council on Bioethics published the ‘Controversies in the Determination of Death’. Within the publication, the Council discusses the various criterions that need to be met in order for death to be declared. The criterions include those of a neurological level, which have been observed for over three decades. Although there have recently been objections to the neurological criterion in regards to death determination, the Council decided to maintain the criterion. In keeping the neurological criterion, the Council was correct, but the justification of the criteria is insufficient.

The neurological criteria that must be met in order for death to be declared are the irreversible cessation of heartbeat, permanent inability to breath, and total brain failure. The neurological criteria work in such a way that if they are met, it is an indication that the individual is unable to perform the biological functions needed to continue to function as a human being. Meeting any of the criteria is an indication of death. If irreversible cessation of heartbeat and efforts to restore heartbeat prove unfruitful, then the heart does not pump blood around the body and the oxygen exchanges within blood is not able to occur nor are vital organs able to receive the blood and nutrients they need, which leads to total functional failure, the inability of organs to function. If the organs are unable to function, especially the heart, than the individual is unable to carry out any further life functions, and is therefore, dead. Permanent inability to breath does not allow the body to take in new oxygen and expel waste carbon dioxide, which further prevents the rest of the body from attaining new oxygen and performing its functions adequately. Although it may be argued that artificial ventilation can provide a means for an individual to be kept alive by breathing for them, but they are unable to breathe on their own and...
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