The Definition of Death Unresolved Controversies

  • Robert M. Veatch


During the 1970s, as states rapidly adopted brain criteria for pronouncing death, many believed that the definition of death debate would soon be over. A few romantics would hold onto the heart as the critical organ for considering a person alive, but they would be overpowered by more reasonable people oriented to the brain as the locus for determining whether a person was dead. Eventually those committed to the respiratory and circulatory function would die off, and a widespread consensus would dominate public policy.


Brain Function Brain Death Irreversible Loss Persistent Vegetative State Treatment Refusal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Association of Retired Persons, 1986, A Matter of Choice: Planning Ahead for Health Care Decisions, A.A.R.P., Washington, D. C.Google Scholar
  2. Beecher, H. K., 1970, The new definition of death, some opposing views, Presented at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 1970.Google Scholar
  3. Brierley, J. B., Adam, J. A. H., Graham, D. I., and Simpson, J. A., 1971, Neocortical death after cardiac arrest, Lancet 2: 560–565.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Byrne, P. A., O’Reilly, S., and Quay, P. M., 1979, Brain death—an opposing viewpoint, JAMA 242: 1985–1990.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cranford, R. B., and Smith, H. L., 1979, Some critical distinctions between brain death and the persistent vegetative state, Ethics Sci. Med. 6: 199–209.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Engelhardt, H. T., 1975, Defining death: A philosophical problem for medicine and law. Annu. Rev. Respir. Dis. 1975: 587–90.Google Scholar
  7. Green, M. B., and Wikler, D., 1980, Brain death and personal identity, J. Philos. Public Affairs 9 (2): 105–133.Google Scholar
  8. Haring, B., 1973, Medical Ethics, Fides, Notre Dame, Indiana.Google Scholar
  9. Harvard Medical School, 1968, A Definition of Irreversible Coma, Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death, JAMA 205: 337–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hudson, W. D., 1969, The Is/Ought Question, Macmillan, London.Google Scholar
  11. Jennett, B., and Plum, F., 1972, Persistent vegetative state after brain damage, Lancet 1: 734–737.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kohler, W., 1966, The Place of Value in a World of Facts, Mentor, New York.Google Scholar
  13. Kuhn, T. S., 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  14. Mohandas, A., and Chou, S. N., 1971, Brain death: A clinical and pathological study, J. Neurosurg. 35: 211–218.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. New York State Task Force on Life and Law, July, 1986, The Determination of Death. Google Scholar
  16. Popper, K. R., 1968, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Harper Torchbooks, New York.Google Scholar
  17. President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1981, Defining Death: Medical, Legal and Ethical Issues in the Definition of Death, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  18. President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1983, Deciding to Forego Life-Sustaining Treatment: Ethical, Medical, and Legal Issues in Treatment Decisions,U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. State v. Watson 191 N.J. Super. 464 (1983).Google Scholar
  19. Tomlinson, T., 1984, The conservative use of the brain-death criterion—A critique, J. Med. Pl.ilos. 9: 377–393.Google Scholar
  20. Veatch, R. M., 1975, The whole-brain-oriented concept of death: An outmoded philosophical formulation, J. Thanatol. 3: 13–30.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Veatch, R. M., 1976a, Death, Dying, and the Biological Revolution, Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.Google Scholar
  22. Veatch, R. M., 1976b, Value-Freedom in Science and Technology, Scholars Press, Missoula, Montana. Veatch, R. M., 1984, Limits of guardian treatment refusal: A reasonableness standard, Am. J. Law Med. 9: 427–468.Google Scholar
  23. Walker, A. E., Diamond, E. L., Moseley, J. I., 1977, An appraisal of the criteria of cerebral death—A summary statement, JAMA 237: 982–986.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert M. Veatch
    • 1
  1. 1.Kennedy Institute of EthicsGeorgetown UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations