HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sigrid Fry-Revere, Thomas Andrew Reher & Matthew Ray: "Death: A New Legal Perspective"

Sigrid Fry-Revere, Thomas Andrew Reher and Matthew Ray of the Center for Ethical Solutions (CES) posted "Death: A New Legal Perspective" on SSRN:
Throughout the ages the definition of death has been fairly static and at the same time very nonspecific; a person was considered alive until vital functions ceased, thereafter that person was considered dead. The last century has brought about the advent of many new medical technologies and processes, which have brought with them a need for specific criteria about the definition of death. This article lays bare what is at stake in the modern dispute over the definition of death and argues that it is time to reconsider this legal definition as it has developed over the last fifty years. Certainty should take precedence over expediency, and individuals should be empowered to take into consideration their personal definition of death in making end of life health care plans. As a matter of public policy, no patient should be declared dead until after all integrated circulatory and brain functions have ceased; but individuals should be allowed to decide for themselves, or through their surrogates, when to end care or donate organs based on their own concept of death and thus, if they so desire, before the official criteria for determining death are met.

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