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.
4 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2020 Last revised: 21 Dec 2021
Date Written: November 1, 2018
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.
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