What Does a Definition of Death Do?

Laura Specker Sullivan

About author

Laura Specker Sullivan, PhD
Center for Bioethics
Harvard Medical School
641 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

E-mail: Laura_SpeckerSullivan@hms.harvard.edu


In his article, “Defining Death: Beyond Biology,” John Lizza argues in favor of a civil definition of death, according to which the potential for consciousness and social interaction marks us as the “kind of being that we are.” In this commentary, I critically discuss this approach to the bioethical debate on the definition of death. I question whether Lizza’s account is based on a full recognition of the “practical, moral, religious, philosophical, and cultural considerations” at play in this debate. I further propose that a truly ethical debate on definitions of death ought to concentrate on how different definitions of death are used in diverse contexts – what definitions of death do – and focus less on who has the right definition of death for all situations.

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Article links:

Default URL: http://www.diametros.iphils.uj.edu.pl/index.php/diametros/article/view/1176
English abstract URL: http://www.diametros.iphils.uj.edu.pl/index.php/diametros/article/view/1176/en


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