Brain Death and Brain Life: Rethinking the Connection
Brain Life, Brain Death, Human Being, Embryo, Definitions of Death
In this paper, I argue that the connection between brain life and brain death is neither as simple nor as defensible as it might at first appear. The problem rests with the two dominant competing definitions of death: the first defines death as the lost of that which is necessary for the organism to continue to function as a whole; the second defies death as the loss of that which is essentially significant to the nature of the organism. I argue that if death is understood as the loss of that which is necessary for the continued functioning of the organism as a whole, then the apparent symmetry breaks down. If, on the other hand, death could be understood as the loss of that which is essentially significant to the nature of the organism (and this is taken to be consciousness), then the symmetry would hold. However, that definition of death is indefensible. Therefore, it is concluded, statements about the status of the anencephalic infants and early human embryos based upon a connection between brain death and brain life are unfounded.
Jocelyn Downie, "Brain Death and Brain Life: Rethinking the Connection" (1990) 4:3 Bioethics 216.