Defending a Functionalist View of Higher Brain Death


Journal of Clinical Research and Bioethics  is an peer-reviewed, open-access scholarly journal focused on publishing articles in all aspects of academic journal and aims to publish most complete and reliable source of information on the discoveries and current developments in the mode of original articles, review articles, case reports, short communications, etc. in all areas of the field and making them freely available through online without any restrictions or any other subscriptions to researchers worldwide.

There are three standards that have been considered for determining the death of a human being. The oldest is the CPM. Under the CPM human beings are considered dead when they permanently cease to breathe and circulate blood. Historically this view of death worked quite well, and it is relatively easy to document. However, due to technological innovation of mechanical ventilation, the CPM, for the first time in human history, seemed inadequate. In the late 1950s some of the first few patients kept alive through mechanical ventilation fell into a deep coma. They seemed to be neither fully alive nor fully dead to their physicians. As a result the term “irreversible coma” was first coined. The term “Brain Death” was first used by Robert Schwab in 1963. Some doctors were disturbed by the semi-alive state they had created for their patients. The apparent fact that people still breathing could be, in reality, dead inspired the Harvard Criteria of 1968  documenting death as associated with irreversible coma.

The Harvard criteria used the following four measures for determining death:

• Unreceptivity and unresponsivity

• No movements or breathing

• No reflexes

• Flat EEG

The movement to any brain death standard is of profound significance. It reflects the need to demarcate death beyond mere biological functioning of body parts. We argue here that the most consistent standard of brain death should be one based on the permanent cession of all mental processing. For this properly reflects that what is essential for human life is not a beating heart or a breathing lung, but rather the capacity for a mental life.

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Media Contact:
Eliza Grace
Managing Editor
Journal of Clinical Research and Bioethics
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