Monday, 14 January 2013

The Definition of Life

1. To be legally dead means when a person disappears and no identifiable remains can be located, and is subsequently declared legally dead. A legal death can also be 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.
To be medically dead means the cessation of blood circulation and breathing, the two necessary criteria to sustain life. Should one have these symptoms, one should be declared dead.

Example: Mr Chua has stopped breathing and his pulse has stopped, is he dead?

2. Definitions of death have not changed a great deal, but that doesn't mean much. All we can really do is set criteria for who's dead, and that is tough enough, and we have no real definitive set of standards.
Different cultures have different ways of accepting death and different procedures to follow after the confirmation of death. Some believe in reincarnation and some believe a following into heaven or hell.

Example: Mr Chua has been declared dead, is he in heaven or attained nirvana?

3. Brain death occurs when a person no longer has any activity in their brain stem and no potential for consciousness, even though a ventilator is keeping their heart beating and oxygen circulating through their blood. When brain stem function is permanently lost, the person will be confirmed dead.
Brain dead is the irreversible end of all brain activity. Some of the criteria would be the person being unresponsive. There will be no facial sensation or response. There would be no response to light directly in their eyes.

Example: Mr Chua is dead, can he still sneeze?

4. Someone in a persistent vegetative state can show signs of wakefulness (they may open their eyes, for example) but have no response to their surroundings.

However, the important difference between PVS and brain death is that a patient with PVS still has a functioning brain stem, therefore:
Some form of consciousness may exist in someone in a PVS.
A person in a PVS can still breathe unaided.
A person in a PVS has a slim chance of recovering because the core functions of the brain stem are often unaffected, whereas a person with brain death has no chance of recovery as the body cannot survive without artificial support.

Example: Mr Chua has been in a coma for 3 years, yet he is still breathing and his core functions are still functioning, is he dead or in a vegetative state?

5. There is no strict way of defining death. Some of the other ethical issues would be concerning the certainty of diagnosis and about the medical steps that may be taken after death is pronounced. The definition of death is a moral issue and that confronting it as such vindicates the higher-brain approach.

For example, in the past, people were declared dead if organs were missing. However, due to technological advancements, organ transplants and blood transfusions have been made possible and have allowed people in near-death situations to survive. This has led to the ethical implication of people surviving when they should have been dead instead.

Human organs have been made possible to replace with other animal organs such as pigs, who have similar organs as people.

Example: Mr Chua’s organs are missing, is he dead?

By: Carissa, Chang Han, River, Crystal and Desiree :)

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