What Does a Definition of Death Do?

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Laura Specker Sullivan

Abstract

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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How to Cite
Sullivan, L. (2018). What Does a Definition of Death Do?. Diametros, 55(55), 63-67. https://doi.org/10.13153/diam.1176
Section
Special Topic – Defining Death: Beyond Biology
Author Biography

Laura Specker Sullivan, Harvard Medical School

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

E-mail: Laura_SpeckerSullivan@hms.harvard.edu

References

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Lizza J.P. (2018), “Defining Death: Beyond Biology,” Diametros 55: 1–19.

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McMahan J. (2006), “An Alternative to Brain Death,” Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 34 (1): 44–48.

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Truog R. (2006), “Brain Death – Too Flawed to Endure, to Ingrained to Abandon,” Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 35 (2): 273–281.