Differences Between Death and Dying
Journal of Medical Ethics. 1995 Oct; 21(5): 270-276.
With so much attention being paid to the development and refinement of appropriate criteria and tests for death, little attention has been given to the broader conceptual issues having to do with its definition or with the relation of a definition to its criterion. The task of selecting the correct criterion is, however, virtually impossible without proper attention to the broader conceptual setting in which the definition operates as the key feature. All of the issues I will discuss arise because of this lack of concern with conceptual matters. Such problems as incorrectly diagnosing a patient as dead prior to the harvesting of his or her organs, defending the idea that death is reversible, and advocating a brainstem criterion of death, are all, I believe, errors that derive from this misplaced emphasis.