Brain Death at Fifty: Exploring Consensus, Controversy, and Contexts

Defining Death: Organ Transplantation and the Fifty-Year Legacy of the Harvard Report on Brain Death, special report, Hastings Center Report 48, no. 6 (2018): S2-S5.

Posted: 29 Sep 2020

See all articles by Robert D. Truog

Robert D. Truog

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

Nancy Berlinger

The Hastings Center

Rachel Zacharias

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Mildred Solomon

The Hastings Center

Date Written: November 2018

Abstract

This special report is published in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the "Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death," a landmark document that proposed a new way to define death, with implications that advanced the field of organ transplantation. This remarkable success notwithstanding, the concept has raised lasting questions about what it means to be dead. Is death defined in terms of the biological failure of the organism to maintain integrated functioning? Can death be declared on the basis of severe neurological injury even when biological functions remain intact? Is death essentially a social construct that can be defined in different ways, based on human judgment? These issues, and more, are discussed and debated in this report by leading experts in the field, many of whom have been engaged with this topic for decades.

Suggested Citation

Truog, Robert D. and Berlinger, Nancy and Zacharias, Rachel and Solomon, Mildred Z., Brain Death at Fifty: Exploring Consensus, Controversy, and Contexts (November 2018). Defining Death: Organ Transplantation and the Fifty-Year Legacy of the Harvard Report on Brain Death, special report, Hastings Center Report 48, no. 6 (2018): S2-S5. , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3672665

Robert D. Truog

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School ( email )

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-355-7327 (Phone)

Nancy Berlinger

The Hastings Center ( email )

21 Malcolm Gordon Road
Garrison, NY 10524
United States
(845) 424-4040 ext. 210 (Phone)
(845) 424-4545 (Fax)

Rachel Zacharias (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Mildred Z. Solomon

The Hastings Center ( email )

Garrison, NY 10524
United States

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