Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society Organization Logo Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society


Refinements in the Organism as a Whole Rationale for Brain Death


Event Summary

James L. Bernat, MD (Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth University) led a discussion group to examine the ongoing controversy surrounding brain death and whether it is equivalent to human death. While brain death is widely accepted in the medical community and has been enacted into law in many jurisdictions, opponents and critics still argue against it. Recent concepts in theoretical biology, such as the idea that the organism as a whole is the critical emergent function of the organism, support the idea that brain death is indeed equivalent to human death. The concept of the brain as a whole may offer a superior criterion of death compared to the whole-brain criterion. Despite the persisting conceptual controversies and legal challenges, the societal acceptance of brain death continues to grow.