Definition of Death

Topics: Death, Brain death, Primum non nocere Pages: 3 (1098 words) Published: April 8, 2013
Why is the definition of death an important question for the issue of donation and transplantation? The definition of death is an important question for the issue of donation and transplantation for several reasons, but most importantly, because doctors may only harvest organs after a person has died because otherwise they are going against the medical principle of Primum non nocere meaning “first, do no harm”. This means that doctors must wait until a person is fully dead before removing organs as otherwise they would be inflicting harm on a patient, not removing organs from a corpse. Therefore this medical principle of Primum non noncere requires doctors to know when a person is dead. Therefore the definition of death is an important question for the issue of donation and transplantation, as without definition it becomes very unclear on when a doctor is to remove the organs from the donor. Many definitions of death have been evident throughout time. Up until 1968 the fourth edition of Black’s Law Dictionary defined death as “…Total stoppage of the circulation of the blood, and a cessation of the animal and vital functions consequent thereupon, such as respiration, pulsation, etc.” This definition is commonly known as ‘body death’, whereby a person’s body could be seen to no longer function, resulting in death. However, this definition poses problems, one of which is highlighted by Glanville Williams who discusses a hypothetical case that poses legal difficulties due to the ‘body death’ definition of death. The case explores the issue surrounding whether it is murder to stab a body that had stopped beating but could have been revived. The problem it poses is that technically the man simply had an illegal interface with a corpse, not murder, which if the definition of death was different, the case would have seen the man been accused with murder. This problem with the definition of ‘Body death’ is a problem for the issue of donation and transplantation because...
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