What is the Definition of Death?

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What does death mean? How is death defined? “Death is the one great uncertainty. The subject of powerful social and religious rituals and moving literature, it is contemplated by philosophers, probed by biologists, and combatted by physicians.” (Rector, 2008,3)(Defining Death, 1981) For centuries, death has been defined as the absence of cessation of respiratory and/or cardiopulmonary function, or in more layman’s terms, the heart stops beating or the person stops breathing (Rector, 2008, 30). As the technological advances have been made in modern medical science, the need to further define the role brain function has in determining death has increased (Rector, 2008, 30). With the invention of the first kidney transplant in the 1950’s and even more with the invention of heart transplants in the 1960’s, it became increasingly evident “brain death” played a large role in determining death (Rector, 2008, 30). “For such (heart, kidney) transplants to be successful, a viable, intact organ is needed.” (Rector, 2008, 30)(Defining Death, 1981) Research shows successful transplantation of organs drops once the donor’s respiratory function and cardiopulmonary function cease (Rector, 2008, 30). It has become progressively more essential for physicians to identify brain death of their patients, while on mechanical ventilation, in a timelier manner so the organs have a greater potential of viability for transplantation (Rector, 2008, 30). (Defining Death, 198 1) As the need for a standard definition of death increased, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research was established by Congress in 1978 (President Commission for study of Ethical Problems, 1979, July, 1... ... middle of paper ... ...eved January 25,2014,Guttmacher institute, http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/texas.html.  Stith, M. (2006). The Semblance of Autonomy: Treatment of Persons with Disabilities Under the Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act. Issues In Law & Medicine, 22(1), 39-80.  Spinello I. Brain Death Determination. Journal Of Intensive Care Medicine [serial online]. November 12, 2013.  Tiernan, P. B. (2002). Florida Durable Powers of Attorney. Florida Bar Journal, 76(7), 34.  Texas Abortion Laws,Retrived January 25,2014,from planned parenthood center for choice, http://www.plannedparenthood.org/setexas-abortion/texas-abortion-laws-28992.htm  Wijdicks EF, Varelas PN, Gronseth GS, Greer DM. Evidence-based guideline update: Determining brain death in adults: Report of the quality standards subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2010; 74(23): 1911-18.
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