The Moment of Death: Law, Society and Science
Obiter 2008 29 (2) 260-267
8 Pages Posted: 25 May 2014
Date Written: May 24, 2008
To determine the moment of death is very important for various purposes in medico-legal practice. The moment of death may not only assist and be regarded as valuable evidentiary material in criminal investigations but it is also important in the context of organ transplantation, questions regarding euthanasia, insurance claims, the termination of a marriage or business partnership as well as in the legal domain of succession. A diagnosis of death is furthermore important and necessary for society to commence with religious and/or traditional rituals, burials etc.
The focus of this note is on the moment of death in the broader context of medico-legal practice and with specific reference to the amendments made by the National Health Act 61 of 2003 (South Africa) in this regard.
Owing to the vast scope of the topic, the note will highlight the main debates regarding the moment of death, the definition for death and criteria for determining death. The basic principles and comments on recent developments in this particular area of medical law will also be discussed.
Keywords: Moment of death, South Africa, Medico-Legal, Death criteria, Somatic death, Neo-cortical death, Brain death
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