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Person Perception and the Death of the Person: A New Role for Health Professionals in Cases of Brain Death

  • Stuart F. Spicker
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 31)

Abstract

Today’s hospitals no longer contain only beds — the “staffed bed capacity” which affects the calculation of the hospital’s revenues and expenditures — for, as Professor John Lachs remarked over a decade ago, “gardens … flourish in our major hospitals…. [They contain] thousands of human vegetables we sustain on life-preserving machines without any hope of recovery” ([4], p. 839). In this New England Journal of Medicine essay, Lachs was concerned to distinguish humane treatment from the treatment of humans, and he wrote convincingly on the criteria we as a society should employ in order to justify — both morally and medically — the discontinuation of treatment for those without any hope for recovery. He defended “merciful euthanasia” and admonished his readers to reevaluate their apparently fundamental aim — “to keep this creature [the unconscious vegetable] breathing and growing to no end” ([4], p. 840). Notwithstanding the ever-present danger that physicians do at times err by making false-positive determinations of death, i.e., declaring the patient dead when, indeed, he is alive, Lachs urged that we judge such irreversibly comatose creatures as no longer human.

Keywords

Brain Death Person Perception Dead Person Brain Necrosis Human Vegetable 
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.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stuart F. Spicker
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Connecticut School of MedicineFarmingtonUSA

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