Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter (A) April 18, 2016

Elvis Ain’t Dead Until We Say So

John P. Lizza

Abstract

Much of the discussion of the definition and criteria of death occurs within the framework of what James Bernat has called the “paradigm of death” – a set of conditions and assumptions that defines the nature of the phenomena and its conceptual boundaries. Two assumptions in this paradigm are that death is “an immutable and objective biological fact and not fundamentally a social contrivance” and that “‘death’ can be applied directly and categorically only to organisms” and not to persons (persons can die in only a “metaphorical” sense). I challenge these assumptions and argue that defining death is not simply a biological matter but also a matter for metaphysical, moral, and cultural reflection. When it comes to deciding among non-brain, whole-brain or higher-brain formulations of death, biological considerations are insufficient. Disagreement among proponents of these formulations can be traced to disagreements over the nature of the kind of being we are or to moral, social or cultural differences. This is illustrated by a critical analysis of the position taken by the U. S. President’s Council on Bioethics in its White Paper, Controversies in the Determination of Death (2008). Thus, while it may be false in some contexts to say that Elvis ain’t dead until we say so, insofar as defining death involves metaphysical, moral, and cultural considerations, Elvis ain’t dead until we say so.

Literatur

Anstötz, A. (1993), Should a Brain-dead Pregnant Woman Carry Her Child to Full Term? The Case of the „Erlanger Baby“, in: Bioethics 7, 340–350. Search in Google Scholar

Bernstein, I., Watson, M., Simmons, G. M., Catalano, M., Davis, G., u. Collins, R. (1989), Maternal Brain Death and Prolonged Fetal Survival, in: Obstetrics and Gynecology 74, 434–437. Search in Google Scholar

Deutsches Ärzteblatt (2013), Ethikrat will Änderungen für Todesfeststellung diskutieren (6.5.), URL: http://www.aerzteblatt.de/nachrichten/54294/Ethikrat-will-Aenderungen-fuer-Todesfeststellung-diskutieren (25.3.2015). Search in Google Scholar

Field, D. R., Gates, E. A., Creasy, R. K., Jonsen, K. R., u. Laros, R. K. (1988), Maternal Brain Death during Pregnancy, in: Journal of the American Medical Association 260, 816–822. Search in Google Scholar

Lizza, J. P. (1993), Persons and Death: What’s Metaphysically Wrong with Our Current Statutory Definition of Death?, in: The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 18.4, 351–374. Search in Google Scholar

Lizza, J. P. (1999), Defining Death for Persons and Human Organisms, in: Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 20, 439–453. Search in Google Scholar

Lizza, J. P. (2002), Defining Death: A Biological or Cultural Matter?, in: Fisher, R., Primozic, D., Day, P., u. Thompson, J. (Hg.), Suffering, Death, and Identity, Amsterdam, 155–166. Search in Google Scholar

Lizza, J. P. (2006), Persons, Humanity and the Definition of Death, Baltimore, Md. Search in Google Scholar

Lizza, J. P. (2009a), Is „Brain Death“ Death?: Commentary on Papers Presented by Bernard Gert, D. Alan Shewmon, Robert Truog, Ari Joffe, and Donald Marquis at the Special Session Arranged by the APA Committee on Philosophy and Medicine at the APA Pacific Division Meeting, 10.4.2009, in: American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Medicine 9.1, 20–22, URL: http://www.apaonline.org/documents/publications/v09n1_Medicine.pdf (8.10.2010). Search in Google Scholar

Lizza, J. P. (2009b), Commentary on „The Incoherence of Determining Death by Neurological Criteria”, in: Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 19, 393–395. Search in Google Scholar

Lizza, J. P. (2011), Where’s Waldo? The ‚Decapitation Gambit‘ and the Definition of Death, in: Journal of Medical Ethics 37, 743–746. Search in Google Scholar

Lock, M. (2002), Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death, Berkeley, Calif. Search in Google Scholar

Miller, F. G., u. Truog, R. D. (2010), Decapitation and the Definition of Death, in: Journal of Medical Ethics 36, 632–634. Search in Google Scholar

President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1981), Defining Death: Medical Legal and Ethical Issues in the Determination of Death, Washington, D. C. Search in Google Scholar

President’s Council on Bioethics (2006), Sitzungsprotokoll, Sitzung 1: Ethical and Philosophical Issues in the Definition of Death, 7.9.2006, URL: http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/pcbe/transcripts/sept06/session1.html (10.9.2012). Search in Google Scholar

President’s Council on Bioethics (2007), Sitzungsprotokoll, Sitzung 5: Response to the Council’s White Paper, „Controversies in the Determination of Death“, 7.11.2007, URL: http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/pcbe/transcripts/nov07/index.html (10.9.2012). Search in Google Scholar

President’s Council on Bioethics (2008), Controversies in the Determination of Death: A White Paper by the President’s Council on Bioethics, o. O. Search in Google Scholar

Shewmon, A. D. (1997), Recovery from „Brain Death“: A Neurologist’s Apologia, in: Linacre Quarterly 64, 31–96. Search in Google Scholar

Shewmon, A. D. (1998), Chronic ‚Brain Death‘: Meta-analysis and Conceptual Consequences, in: Neurology 51, 1538–1545. Search in Google Scholar

Shewmon, A. D. (2001), The Brain and Somatic Integration: Insights into the Standard Biological Rationale for Equating ‚Brain Death’ with Death, in: Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 26, 457–478. Search in Google Scholar

Shewmon, A. D. (2009), Brain Death: Can It Be Resuscitated?, in: Hastings Center Report 39.2, 18–24. Search in Google Scholar

Wallace, W. (1995), St. Thomas on the Beginning and Ending of Human Life, in: Vari, A. (Hg.), Sanctus Thomas de Aquino Doctor Hodiernae Humanitatis, Rom; neu hg. in: Lizza, J. P. (Hg.) (2009), Defining the Beginning and End of Life: Readings on Personal Identity and Bioethics, Baltimore, Md., 469–482. Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2016-4-18
Published in Print: 2016-4-1

© 2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston