Definition Essay On Life And Death

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It is difficult to conceive of two words more important to human existence than life and death. Certainly all of us know these words intimately, and have a deep understanding of their meaning. Life and death have been principal topics of discussion in political debate and popular dialog for decades. Having a clear understanding of life and death is essential to any discussion on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, end-of-life care, and organ donation. Yet despite the seemingly obvious nature of these words and their clearly obvious importance to our existence, it turns out that life and death are somehow difficult to define. Life and death represent a dyad; their definitions inherently depend on one another. Simply defined, death is the cessation of life. Similarly, life can be defined as not death; however, not everything not alive is dead. Boniolo and Di Fiore explain this dyadic relationship well, and other authors have cited this interdependency to better define life and death.1-6 The academic literature contains multiple definitions for both terms depending on which discipline or interest group attempts the definition. Nair-Collins provides a thorough discourse on this diversity in terms of death, differentiating between “biological death, death of the person, death of the moral agent, death of the moral patient, legal death, and the commonsense notion of death.”2(p.667,668,675) Through the dyadic relationship, similar groupings could be arrived at for defining life. Whether or not one accepts Nair-Collins’ categories, at least some differentiation of this type is necessary given the complexity of these concepts. I propose a simplified categorization of the definitions of life and death: (1)scientific/biological, (2)medic... ... middle of paper ... ... is that it renders organ donation and termination of life support for brain-dead individuals impossible without “killing.” Naturally, this becomes an important factor in determining the legal definitions of life and death. Legal Definitions It is clear at this point that legally defining death is more manageable than defining life. Indeed, death is defined in U.S. Federal law by the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA). This law incorporates both the circulatory-respiratory and the whole-brain death criteria, and remains unchanged today despite much critical analysis.2(p.667), 3(p.40) Life, on the other hand, does not appear to be as clearly legally-defined. In decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a pass on defining the point at which life begins.5(p.16,17) Life, it seems, is still up for interpretation.

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