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Brain Death as the End of a Human Organism as a Self-moving Whole


Event Summary

Adam Omelianchuk

At this event, Adam P Omelianchuk (Assistant Professor, Center for Medical Ethics & Health Policy - Clinical Baylor College of Medicine) discussed the biophilosophical justification for the idea that brain death is the end of a human organism as a self-moving whole. This justification depends on two claims: that what dies in human death is a human organism, not merely a psychological entity distinct from it, and that total brain failure signifies the end of the human organism as a whole. Defenders of brain death typically assume the first claim without argument and defend the second claim through the integrative unity rationale, which has fallen on hard times. Omelianchuk provided reasons for why we should think of ourselves as organisms and argued that the "fundamental work" rationale put forward by the 2008 President's Council is better than the integrative unity rationale, despite objections to it. Our current tests for total brain failure may not be perfect, but better arguments are needed to deny that brain death signifies the end of a human organism as a self-moving whole.

This working group was organized as part of the Death: From Philosophy to Medical Practice and the Law project at the Neubauer Collegium.