Defining Life from the Perspective of Death: An Introduction to the Forced Symmetry Approach

45 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2006

See all articles by Kirsten Rabe Smolensky

Kirsten Rabe Smolensky

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Abstract

Depending on one's perspective, human life may begin at conception, when a fetus's heart starts to beat, when electrical activity commences in the fetal brain, at quickening, at viability, at sentience, at birth or with the development of self-consciousness. Life, much like death, is probably best described in many disciplines as a process. The law, however, needs life to be defined as a moment in time. Currently, the law does not provide a consistent definition of life, but it does provide a fairly consistent definition of death. This paper explores various ways to define life, relying in part on the current legal definition of death. In particular, the paper explores the debated symmetry between brain death and brain life and advocates a forced symmetry approach for thinking about the legal definition of life and the abortion debate in a renewed light.

Keywords: life, death, legal definitions, brain dead, abortion

Suggested Citation

Smolensky, Kirsten Rabe, Defining Life from the Perspective of Death: An Introduction to the Forced Symmetry Approach. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 2006; Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 06-29. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=925142

Kirsten Rabe Smolensky (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

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