New technologies and medical treatments have complicated questions such as how to determine the moment when someone has died. The result is a failure to establish consensus on the definition of death and the criteria by which the moment of death is determined. This creates confusion and disagreement not only among medical, legal, and insurance professionals but also within families faced with difficult decisions concerning their loved ones.
Distinguished bioethicists Robert M. Veatch and Lainie F. Ross argue that the definition of death is not a scientific question but a social one rooted in religious, philosophical, and social beliefs. Drawing on history and recent court cases, the authors detail three potential definitions of death — the whole-brain concept; the circulatory, or somatic, concept; and the higher-brain concept. Because no one definition of death commands majority support, it creates a major public policy problem. The authors cede that society needs a default definition to proceed in certain cases, like those involving organ transplantation. But they also argue the decision-making process must give individuals the space to choose among plausible definitions of death according to personal beliefs.
Taken in part from the authors' latest edition of their groundbreaking work on transplantation ethics, Defining Death is an indispensable guide for professionals in medicine, law, insurance, public policy, theology, and philosophy as well as lay people trying to decide when they want to be treated as dead.
Georgetown University Press; November 2016
- ISBN: 9781626163560
- Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
- Title: Defining Death
- Author: Robert M. Veatch; Lainie F. Ross
Imprint: Georgetown University Press
About The Author
Robert M. Veatch, PhD, is professor of medical ethics emeritus at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Bioethics and the Humanities. The author of fifty books, he is coauthor of Transplantation Ethics, Second Edition, with Lainie F. Ross. He serves on the United Network for Organ Sharing Ethics Committee and the Board of Directors of the Washington Regional Transplant Community.
Lainie F. Ross, MD, is the Carolyn and Matthew Bucksbaum Professor of Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Children, Families and Health Care Decision-Making, Children in Medical Research: Access versus Protection, and coauthor of Transplantation Ethics, Second Edition, with Robert M. Veatch. She has served on the United Network for Organ Sharing Ethics Committee.