Widespread of the definition of death according to brain-based criteria in clinical practice

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To begin with, brainhood is rooted in a Western context, albeit now almost universally disseminated through the circulation of originally European forms of knowledge and systems of values. Let us look briefly at a major instance of such globalization: the definition of death according to brain-based criteria, which has been increasingly accepted since the late 1960s and predominates everywhere in clinical practice (De Grazia 2011).



To begin with, brainhood is rooted in a Western context, albeit now almost universally disseminated through the circulation of originally European forms of knowledge and systems of values. Let us look briefly at a major instance of such globalization: the definition of death according to brain-based criteria, which has been increasingly accepted since the late 1960s and predominates everywhere in clinical practice (De Grazia 2011).


Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living) (...

According to De Grazia (download the whole article at the link below): 

"With the invention of mechanical respirators in the 1950s, however, it became possible for a previously lethal extent of brain damage to coexist with continued cardiopulmonary functioning, sustaining the functioning of other organs. Was such a patient alive or dead? The widespread dissemination in the 1960s of such technologies as mechanical respirators and defibrillators to restore cardiac function highlighted the possibility of separating cardiopulmonary and neurological functioning. Quite rapidly the questions of what constituted human death and how we could determine its occurrence had emerged as issues both philosophically rich and urgent."

De Grazia, David. 2011. “The Definition of Death.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
David DeGrazia joined the Department of Bioethics, part-time, as Senior Research Fellow in July 2013...

Learn more about David de Grazia at Bioethics Departament of National Institutes of Health - NIH web...

The following 2018 New Yorker article tackles on contemporary challenges to the brain-based criteria for defining death. Here is a short and interesting video about mechanical respirators:

What does it mean to die?

The Both mechanical respirator (195?) Pt. 1 of 3

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Published in 29/10/2018

Updated in 19/02/2021

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