1. What is the definition (legally and medically) of death?
Medical death is the cessation of all functions of the entire brain.
Legal death is a legal pronouncement by a qualified person that further medical care is not appropriate and that a patient should be considered dead under the law
2. How has the definition of death changed through the years and how does it vary across cultures?
If a person fell unconscious or was found so , the physician would feel for the pulse and listen for breathing , listen for breathing , hold a mirror to test for condensation in order to determine whether the individual is dead . In 1740 , there was a theory that putrefaction is the only sure sign of death . However , people still wanted to find more ways to define death so they developed stethoscopes to detect heartbeat and confirm whether the person is dead . In 2000 , the EKG was invented and it is used to detect and measure cardiac functioning.
Cultures - Although the final outcome of death is the same for all humans, cultures vary in how they conceptualize death and what happens when a person dies. In some cultures, death is conceived to involve different conditions, including sleep, illness, and reaching a certain age. In other cultures, death is said to occur only when there is a total cessation of life. Mostly what differs between culture is what happens after you die . Do you get reborn or do you shed your skin and continue life like that . In some cultures , they make distinctions between an acceptable death and a good death . A good death is where you simply wait till your body ceases functioning . While a good death is adjusting to social standards and doing meaningful things before you die . Some South Pacific cultures believe that life, as is generally construed, departs the body of a person in different situations, such as when one is ill or asleep. Thus conceptualized, people can be said to "die" several times before the final death. Where as another culture believes that life ends at the edge of 40 and even if you live beyond that , you are still considered dead .
3. What are some criteria the medical community uses to determine if one is “brain dead”?
Criteria for brain death:
No response to pain, no cranial nerve reflexes(e.g. pupillary response, oculocephalic reflex, corneal reflex, no response to the caloric reflex test and no spontaneous respirations.
4. Describe some difference between “persistent vegetative state” and “brain death”
- A brain-dead patient is unconscious, has lost the capacity to breathe and requires mechanical respiration, where as a person in persistent vegetative state is able to breathe by him/herself.
- For brain dead people with full supportive treatment, his/her heart will soon stop, usually only after a few days. Whereas if given adequate treatment persons in a vegetative state can survive for years.
5. What are some of the ethical implications of these definitions of death? Provide some real-life examples
The ethical question is whether a new, brain-oriented definition of death would lead to abandonment of patients who might have responded to continued medical care.
Under the clinical standard, death will be pronounced in cases in which there is an irreversible loss of brain functions while respiration is artificially supplied. However, with what assurance can a qualified person state that the relevant organs will not resume functioning in a person diagnosed to have lost certain vital functions?
There was a family feud over ending life support for Terri Schiavo in the United States in 2005. Another example would be a British couple's fight to save their severely handicapped baby Charlotte Wyatt in 2003, when doctors wanted to give up on her.
From : Shaun , Mason , Jia Qi , Kai En and Owen