A Holistic Understanding of Death: Ontological and Medical Considerations

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Doyen Nguyen


In the ongoing ‘brain death’ controversy, there has been a constant push for the use of the ‘higher brain’ formulation as the criterion for the determination of death on the grounds that brain-dead individuals are no longer human beings because of their irreversible loss of consciousness and mental functions. This essay demonstrates that such a position flows from a Lockean view of human persons. Compared to the ‘consciousness-related definition of death,’ the substance view is superior, especially because it provides a holistic vision of the human person, and coheres with the perennial axiom about the ‘whole and parts.’


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NGUYEN, D. A Holistic Understanding of Death: Ontological and Medical Considerations. Diametros, v. 55, n. 55, p. 44-62, 31 Mar. 2018.
Special Topic – Defining Death: Beyond Biology
Author Biography

Doyen Nguyen, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas

Doyen Nguyen, M.D., S.T.D.
Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas
Rome, Italy

E-mail: btursiopsdn@gmail.com

Doyen Nguyen, M.D., S.T.D., is both a moral theologian
and a physician (specializing in hematopathology).

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