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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
SJR: 0.123

ISSN Imprimir: 2151-805X
ISSN En Línea: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.2011003293
pages 11-31

Life, Death and Brain Death: A Critical Examination

D. John Doyle
Department of General Anesthesiology, Cleveland Clinic, 4500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, 44195, USA

SINOPSIS

This paper identifies some of the epistemological difficulties in determining when a patient is dead using brain death criteria. For example, regional protocol variations in the brain death declaration process mean that (at least theoretically) some patients who meet brain death criteria in one country may not meet it in another. Moreover, because of language ambiguity, situations may arise where two reasonably well-trained clinicians disagree about whether a patient meets brain death criteria. Additional difficulties with the process of declaring brain death are also presented related to the fact that nonfunctioning brain-stem nuclei may not necessarily be dead and the fact that some brain-stem nuclei cannot currently be tested in unconscious patients.


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