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The Definition of Death: Contemporary Controversies [Paperback]

Stuart J. Youngner , Robert M. Arnold , Renie Schapiro
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

October 14, 2002 0801872294 978-0801872297 1

The Definition of Death: Contemporary Controversies is the first comprehensive review of the clinical, philosophical, and public policy implications of our effort to redefine the change in status from living person to corpse. It is the result of a collaboration among internationally recognized scholars from the fields of medicine, philosophy, social science, law, and religious studies. Throughout, the contributors struggle to reconcile inconsistencies and gaps in our traditional understanding of death and to respond to the public's concern that, in the determination of death under current policies, patients' interests may be compromised by the demand for organ retrieval.

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Editorial Reviews


The editors of this important volume are to be congratulated for bringing together such an authoritative group of eminent scholars to discuss and debate every aspect of one of the most challenging medical, philosophical, legal, and religious problems of our time. Together, they have produced an immensely valuable book that will be quoted for years to come, wherever this debate rages—which is everywhere.

(Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D.Yale University School of Medicine, author of How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter )

A multitude of closely reasoned, well-written essays... required reading.

(Journal of the American Medical Association)

This is an excellent book... An engaging and fascinating collection of short articles.

(British Medical Journal)

The authors recognize in their analyses that the definition of death is as much a social or value construct as a scientific one.

(Ethics, Law, and Aging Review)

This book is an excellent compilation of articles stating the present position in relation to brain death and clearly demonstrates the ethical dilemmas surrounding the concept of death and its determination in practice. It can be wholeheartedly recommended to those interested in brain death from almost any perspective.

(Journal of Medical Ethics)

About the Author

Stuart J. Youngner, M.D., is the Susan E. Watson Professor of Bioethics and chairman of the Department of Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University. Robert M. Arnold, M.D., is a professor of medicine, the director of the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics, and the Dr. Leo H. Criep Chair in Patient Care at the University of Pittsburgh. Renie Schapiro, M.P.H., is a consultant to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a freelance writer and editor in Madison, Wisconsin.

Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary Controversies
  • Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (October 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801872294
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801872297
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #848,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars IN QUEST OF A NEW DEFINITION OF DEATH September 12, 2010
Stuart Younger, Robert M. Arnold, & Renie Schapiro, editors
The Definition of Death:
Contemporary Controversies

(Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999)
(ISBN: 0-8018-5985-9; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: RA1063.D44 1999)
(Medical call number: W820D285 1999)

This book was created from a conference in 1995.
Brain-death was well established by that time.
But some details were still being questioned.
And some people advocated higher-brain definitions of death,
which would allow even earlier declarations of death,
which is always better for harvesting donor-organs.

This review will deal selectively with the chapters indicated below.

Chapter 3: "How Much of the Brain Must Be Dead?"
by Baruch A. Brody, PhD.

Many common definitions of brain-death
say that the integrative functions of the brain have ceased.
And they cannot be restarted.
But one common integrative function
that remains in brain-dead cadavers is hormonal regulation.
Even when machines are needed to keep the heart and lungs functioning,
the brain-stem is sometimes still putting out hormones
that regulate various bodily functions.

On a literal level, hormone regulation
is one remaining integrative function of the brain.
But hair and nails keep growing too.
These are cell-activities that need no brain at all.
If all that my brain-stem can do on its own
is to produce hormonal regulators,
then I should be declared dead.

In fact, I prefer permanent unconsciousness as the definition of death
that should be used at the end of my life.
I have no philosophical problems being declared brain-dead.
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